Monday, October 31, 2022
When I was 14 I had a Vespa motor scooter. One day I drove into a Fina gas station for a fill-up. The local Fina stations were having a promotion going on with KELI, a pop radio station: they were handing out a small plastic trash bag to each customer. Each bag had a unique seven-digit number. If KELI called out your number and you were the lucky listener, you won a hundred dollars. As a joke, the gas station attendant gave me a trash bag for my motor scooter. The number on the trash bag was 1690245 — which exactly — exactly — exactly exactly exactly — matched the license plate on my motor scooter. Blew my mind big time. Still does.
One day in May when I was in college I was hanging out in the backyard with four of my housemates when suddenly apropos of nothing I said "You know, I've never had a bird shit on me in my life." Less than two minutes later a bird flew by and — splat! — all over my right shoulder! We were all suitably impressed: "Dude!"
Through a horoscope darkly
In my life I've had three astrologers read my natal chart. All three were Vedic astrologers; each reading was free of charge. Nor did I request any of the readings: in each case the astrologer approached me out of the blue. And this all happened within a period of six months centered around my fiftieth birthday. Go figure.
Darlene and I once drove up to Ithaca and the first thing we did was walk into a carry-out diner; as we approached the young woman behind the counter to place our order, she looked at me and said "You're Lawrence Clark." I didn't know her from Adam. We were all dumbstruck.
It's funny because it's true
Once, driving home from Ithaca, Darlene told me that I should have a t-shirt reading
Saturday, October 29, 2022
Rudolf Steiner, Stuttgart, January 1, 1911:
In the lecture yesterday I drew your attention to the fact that very diverse powers intervene in the course of human evolution. For this reason, and also because one mighty stream of influence intersects another, certain periods of ascent and equally of decline occur in definite spheres of civilization. While older civilizations are still waning, while they are so to say passing over into external forms, the creative impulses which are to inaugurate later civilizations, to inspire them and bring them to birth, are being slowly and gradually prepared. So that in a general way the course of man's cultural life may be described briefly as follows. — We find cultural life rising from unfathomed depths and ascending to certain heights; then it ebbs, and indeed more slowly than it ascended. The fruits of a particular civilization-epoch live an for a long time, penetrate into later streams and into folk-cultures of the most diverse character and lose themselves like a river which instead of flowing into the sea trickles away over lowlands. But while it is trickling away, the new civilizations — which were still imperceptible during the decline of the old — are in preparation, in order eventually to begin their development and ascent, and to contribute in the same or a similar way to the progress of humanity. If we want to think of an eminently characteristic example of progress in culture we can surmise that it must be one in which the principle of the universal-human, the weaving of the ego in the ego, appeared in the most striking form. This, as we have shown, was the case in the culture of the ancient Greeks. We have there a clear illustration of a civilization running its own characteristic course; for the achievements of the three preceding civilization-epochs and of the epoch following that of Greece are modified in a quite different way by forces outside man. Hence what lies in the human being himself, whereby he makes his mark upon the world, everything which, proceeding from supersensible powers, is able to express itself in him in the most characteristically human way — this is exemplified in the middle, the fourth, civilization-epoch.
But in regard to this Greek civilization, the following must also be said. It was preceded by the third epoch, which then ebbed away, and during this period of decline Greek culture was being prepared. During the decline of the Babylonian culture, which streamed from the East toward the West, there was enshrined in the little peninsula of southern Europe we know as Greece the seed of what was to sink into humanity as the impulse of a new life. True though it is that this Greek life brought pre-eminently to expression the essentially human element, that which man can find entirely within himself, it must not be thought that such things need no preparation. What we call the essentially human element — that, too, had first to be taught to men in the Mysteries by supersensible powers, just as now the still higher freedom which must be prepared for the sixth civilization-epoch is sustained and taught in supersensible worlds by the beings who lead and guide human evolution.
We must therefore realize that when Greek culture appears to outer observation. as if everything sprang from the essentially human element, it already has behind it a period when it was, so to speak, under the influence of the teachings of higher spiritual beings. It was through these higher spiritual beings that Greek culture was able to rise to the heights it achieved in bringing the essentially human element to expression. For this reason Greek culture too, when we trace it backwards, is lost sight of in the darkness of those prehistoric ages when, as its basis, there was cultivated in the Mystery sanctuaries the wisdom which then, like a heritage, was clothed in majestic poetic form by Homer, by Aeschylus. And so, in face of the grandeur of there unparalleled figures, we must conceive that these men did indeed elaborate something that was entirely the product of their own souls, of the weaving of the ego in the ego, but that it had first been laid by higher beings into these souls in the temple sanctuaries. That is why the poetry of Homer and of Aeschylus seems so infinitely profound, so infinitely great. The poems of Aeschylus should not on any account, however, be judged from the translation by Wilamowitz, for it must be realized that the full greatness of what lived in Aeschylus cannot be conveyed in modern language, and that there could really be no worse approach to an understanding of his works than that tendered by one of the most recent translators.
If, therefore, we study Greek culture against the deep background of the Mysteries, we can begin to divine its real nature. And because the secrets of the life in supersensible worlds were conveyed in a certain human form to the artists of Greece, they were able in their sculptures to embody, in marble or in bronze, what had originally been hidden in the secrecy of the Mysteries. Even what confronts us in Greek philosophy clearly shows that its highest achievements were in truth ancient Mystery wisdom translated into terms of intellect and reason. There is a symbolic indication of this when we are told that Heraclitus offered up his work On Nature as a sacrificial act in the temple of Diana at Ephesus. This means that he regarded what the weaving of the ego in the ego enabled him to say as an offering to the spiritual powers of the preceding epoch with whom he knew himself to be connected. This is an attitude which also sheds light an the profound utterance of Plato, who was able to impart a philosophy of such depth to the Greeks and yet found himself compelled to affirm that all the philosophy of his time was as nothing compared with the ancient wisdom received by the forefathers from the spiritual worlds themselves. In Aristotle everything appears as though in forms of logic — indeed, here one must say that the ancient wisdom has become abstraction, living worlds have been reduced to concepts. But in spite of this — because Aristotle stands at the terminal point of the ancient stream — something of the old wisdom still breathes through his works. In his concepts, in his ideas, however abstract, an echo can still be heard of the harmonies which resounded from the temple sanctuaries and were in truth the inspiration not only of Greek wisdom but also of Greek art, of the whole folk character. For when such a culture first arises, it takes hold not only of knowledge, not only of art, but of the whole man, with the result that the whole man is an impress of the wisdom and spirituality living within him. If we picture Greek civilization rising up from unknown depths even during the decline of Babylonian culture, then, in the age of the Persian Wars we can clearly perceive the effects of what the Greek character had received from the old temple wisdom. For in these Persian Wars we see how the heroes of Greece, aflame with enthusiasm for the heritage received from their forefathers, fling themselves against the stream which, as an ebbing stream from the East, is surging toward them. The significance of their violent resistance, when the treasures of the temple wisdom, when the teachers of the ancient Greek Mysteries themselves were fighting in the souls of the Greek heroes in the battles against the Persians, against the waning culture of the East — the significance of all this can be grasped by the human soul if the question is asked: What must have become of southern Europe, indeed of the whole of later Europe, if the onset of the massive hordes from the East had not been beaten back at that time by the little Greek people? What the Greeks then achieved contained the seed of all later developments in European civilization up to our own times.
And even the outcome in the East of what Alexander subsequently carried back to it from the West — albeit in a way that from a certain point of view is not justifiable — even that could develop only after what was destined to decline in respect also of its physical power had first been thrust back by the burning enthusiasm in the souls of the Greeks for the temple treasures. If we grasp this we shall see how not only the teaching concerning fire given by Heraclitus, not only the all-embracing ideas of Anaxagoras and of Thales, work on, but also the actual teachings of the guardians of the temple wisdom in prehistoric Greek civilisation. We shall feel all this as a legacy of spiritual powers who imbued Greek culture with what it was destined to receive. We shall perceive it in the souls of the Greek heroes who defied the Persians in the various battles. This is how we must learn to feel history, for what is offered us in the ordinary way is, at its best, only an empty abstract of ideas. What works over from earlier into later times can be observed only when we go back to what was imparted to the souls of men through a period lasting for thousands of years, taking definite forms in a certain epoch.
Why was it that in this upsurge of the old temple treasures something so great could be imparted to the Greeks? The secret lay in the universality, the comprehensiveness, of these temple treasures, and in their aloofness from anything of lesser account. It was something that was given as a primal source, something that could engross the whole man, bringing with it, so to say, a direct force of guidance.
And here we come to the essential characteristic of a culture which is rising toward its peak. During this period, everything that is an active stimulus in man — beauty, virtue, usefulness, purposiveness, what he wishes to achieve and realize in life — all this is seen as proceeding directly from wisdom, from the spiritual. Wisdom embraces virtue, beauty, and everything else as well. When man is permeated by, inspired by, the temple wisdom, the rest follows of itself. That is the feeling which prevails during these times of ascent. But the moment the questions, the perceptions, fall asunder — the moment when, for example, the question of the good or the beautiful becomes independent of the question of its divine origin — the period of decline begins. Therefore we may be sure that we are living in a period of decline when it is emphasized that, independently of a spiritual origin, this or that must be especially cultivated, this or that must be the main consideration. When man lacks the confidence that the spiritual can bring forth of itself everything that human life requires, then the streams of culture, which on the arc of ascent form a unity, fall apart into separate streams. We see this where interests outside wisdom, outside the spiritual impetus, begin to infiltrate Greek life; we see it in the political life; we see it, too, in that part of Greek life which especially interests us, in the spiritual life immediately preceding Aristotle. Here, side by side with the question: What is the true? — which embraces the question: What is good and practically effective? — the latter question begins to be an independent one. Men ask: How should knowledge be constituted in order that one can attain a practical goal in life? And so in the period of decline we see the stream of Stoicism arising. With Plato and Aristotle the good was directly contained in the wise; impulses of the good could proceed only from the wise. The Stoics ask: What must man do in order to become wiser in the practice of living, in order to live to some purpose? Goals of practical life insert themselves into what was formerly the all-prevailing impetus of truth.
With Epicureanism comes an element that may be described as follows. — Men ask: How must I prepare myself intellectually in order that this life shall run its course with the greatest possible happiness and inner peace? To this question, Thales, Plato, and even Aristotle would have answered: Search after the truth and truth will give you the supreme happiness, the germinating seed of love. — But now men separate the one question from the question of truth, and a stream of decline sets in. Stoicism and Epicureanism are a stream of decline, the invariable consequence being that men begin to question truth itself and truth loses its power. Hence, simultaneously with Stoicism and Epicureanism in the period of decline, Scepticism arises — doubt in regard to truth. And when Scepticism and doubt, Stoicism, and Epicureanism have exercised their influence for a time, then man, still striving after truth, feels cast out of the World Soul and thrown back upon his own soul. Then he looks around him, saying: This is not an age when impulses flow into humanity from the onworking stream of the spiritual powers themselves. He is thrown back upon his own inner life, his own subjective being. In the further course of Greek life, this comes to expression in Neo-Platonism, a philosophy which is no longer concerned with external life, but looks within and strives upwards to truth through the mystical ascent of the individual. One stream of the cultural life is mounting, another declining, stage by stage. And what has developed during the ascent peters slowly and gradually away, until with the approach of the year 1250 there begins for humanity an inspiration not easy to observe but no less great for all that, which I characterized yesterday in a certain way. This again has been petering away since the 16th century. For since then all the specialized questions have again arisen by the side of those concerning truth itself; again an attitude is taken which wants to separate the question of the good and of the outwardly useful from the one supreme question of truth. And whereas those leading personalities in whom the impulses of the year 1250 were working contemplated all human currents in their relation to truth, we now see coming into prominence the fundamental separation of the questions of practical life from those that are intrinsically concerned with truth. At the portal leading to the new period of decline, the period which so clearly signifies the downward surge in spiritual life—at this portal stands Kant. In his preface to the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason, he says expressly that he had to set limits to the striving after truth in order to make room for what practical religion requires. Hence the strict separation of Practical Reason from Theoretical Reason: in Practical Reason, the postulate of God, Freedom, and Immortality is based entirely on the element of the good; in Theoretical Reason, any possibility of knowledge penetrating into any spiritual world is demolished. That is how things are, when viewed in the setting of world history. And we may be sure that the striving for wisdom in our age will follow in the wake of Kant. When our own spiritual Movement points to the ways in which the capacity for knowledge can be so extended and enhanced as to enable it to penetrate into the supersensible, we shall for a long, long time continue to hear from all sides: “Yes, but Kant says! ...” The historical evolution of mankind takes its course in antitheses of this kind. In what arises instinctively, like a dim inkling, we can see that underneath what is pure maya but accepted as the truth, underneath the stream of maya, human instincts do hit upon things which to a great extent are right. For it is extraordinarily interesting that in certain inklings arising out of folk instincts for practical life, we can perceive the descending course of human evolution from the Greco-Latin epoch and the re-ascent now demanded of us.
What picture, then, must have come before the minds of men who had a feeling for such things? When they looked back to the great figures of history in pre-Christian times — or, we had better say, pre-Grecian times — how must they have thought of all those whom we described as the instruments of beings of the higher hierarchies? They must have said to themselves — and even the Greeks still did so: This has come to us through men who were played into by superhuman, divine forces. — And in all the ages of antiquity we find that the leading personalities, down to the figures of Hermes, and even Plato, were regarded as “sons of the gods”; that is to say, when men looked back to olden times, heightening their vision more and more, they saw the divine behind these personalities who appeared in history; and they regarded the beings who appeared as Plato and in Hermes as having come down, as having been born from, the gods. That is how they rightly saw it — the sons of the gods having united with the daughters of men, in order to bring down the spiritual to the physical plane. In those ancient times men beheld sons of the gods — divine men, that is to say, beings whose nature was united with the divine. On the other hand, when the Greeks came to feel: Now we can speak of the weaving of the ego in the ego, of what lies within the human personality itself — then they spoke of their supreme leaders as the Seven Sages, thus indicating that the nature of those who once were sons of the gods had now become purely and essentially human.
What was bound to come about in the instincts of the peoples in post-Grecian times? It was now a matter of indicating what man elaborates on the physical plane, and how he carries the full fruit of this into the spiritual world. Thus, while the feeling in much earlier times was that the spiritual must be recognized as taking precedence over the physical man and the physical man regarded as a shadow-image, and while during the Greek epoch there were the sages in whom the ego works in the ego, in the epoch after Greece attention was turned to personalities who live on the physical plane and rise to the spiritual through what is achieved in the physical world. This concept developed out of a certain true instinct of knowledge. Just as the pre-Grecian age had sons of the gods and the Greeks had sages, the peoples of the post-Grecian age have saints — human beings who lift themselves into the spiritual life through what they carry into effect on the physical plane. Something is alive there in the folk-instinct, enabling us to glimpse how behind maya itself there is a factor which impels humanity forward.
When we recognize this, the impulses at work in the epochs of time throw light upon the individual human soul, and we understand how the group-karma is inevitably modified by the fact that men are at the same time instruments of the process of historical evolution. We are then able to grasp what the Akasha Chronicle reveals — for example, that in Novalis we have to see something that goes back to Elijah of old. This is an extraordinarily interesting sequence of incarnations. In Elijah the element of prophecy comes strongly to the fore, for it was the mission of the Hebrews to prepare that which was to come in later time. And they prepared it during the period of transition from the Patriarchs to the Prophets, via the figure of Moses. Whereas in Abraham we see how the Hebrew still feels the working of the God within him, in his very blood, in Elijah we see the transition to the ascent into the spiritual worlds. Everything is prepared by degrees. In Elijah there lives an individuality already inspired by what is to come in the future. And then we see how this individuality was to be an instrument for preparing understanding of the Christ Impulse. The individuality of Elijah is reborn in John the Baptist. John the Baptist is the instrument of a higher being. In John the Baptist there lives an individuality who uses him as an instrument, but in order to enable him to serve as such an instrument, the lofty individuality of Elijah was necessary.
Then, later on, we see how this individuality is well fitted to pour impulses working toward the future into forms that were made possible only by the influence of the fourth post-Atlantean cultural epoch. However strange it may seem to us, this individuality appears again in Raphael, who unites in his paintings what is to work in all ages of time as the Christian impulse, with the wonderful forms of Greek culture. And here we can realize how the individual karma of this entelechy is related to the outer incarnation. It is required of the outer incarnation that the power of an age shall be able to come to expression in Raphael; for this power the Elijah-John individuality is the suitable bearer. But the epoch is only able to produce a physical body bound to be shattered under such a power; hence Raphael's early death.
This individuality had then to give effect to the other side of his being in an age when the single streams were dividing once more; he appears again as Novalis. We see how there actually lives in Novalis, in a particular form, all that is now being given us through spiritual science. For outside spiritual science nobody has spoken so aptly about the relation of the astral body to the etheric and physical bodies, about the waking state and sleep, as Novalis, the reincarnated Raphael. These are things which show us how individualities are the instruments of the onflowing stream of man's evolution. And when we observe the course of human development, when we perceive this enigmatic alternation in the happenings of history, we can dimly glimpse the working of deep spiritual powers. The earlier passes over into the later in strange and remarkable ways.
To some of you I have already said that a momentous vista of history is revealed by the transition from Michelangelo to Galileo. (Mark well, I am not speaking of a reincarnation here; it is a matter of historical development.) A very intelligent man once drew attention to the striking fact that the human spirit has woven into the wonderful architecture of the Church of St. Peter in Rome what he calls the science of mechanics. The majestic forms of this building embody the principles of mechanics that were within the grasp of the human intellect, transposed into beauty and grandeur. They are the thoughts of Michelangelo! The impression made by the sight of the Church of St. Peter upon men expresses itself in many different ways, and perhaps everyone has felt something of what Natter, the Viennese sculptor, experienced, or what was experienced in his company. He was driving with a friend toward St. Peter's. It was not yet in sight, but then, suddenly, the friend heard Natter exclaim, springing from his seat and as though beside himself: “I am frightened!” At that moment he had caught sight of St. Peter's ... afterwards he wanted to obliterate the incident from his memory. Everyone may experience something of the kind at the sight of such majesty. And now, in a professorial oration, a very clever man, Professor Müllner, has made the point that Galileo, the great mechanistic thinker, taught humanity in terms of the intellect what Michelangelo had built into spatial forms in the Church of St. Peter. So that what stands there in the Church of St. Peter like crystallized mechanics, principles of mechanics grasped by the human mind, confronts us once again, but now transposed into intellectuality, in the thoughts of Galileo. But it is strange that in this oration the speaker should have called attention to the fact that Galileo was born on the day Michelangelo died (18th February, 1564). Hence there is an indication that the intellectual element, the thoughts coined by Galileo in the intellectual forms of mechanics, arise in a personality whose birth occurs on the same day as the death of the one who had given them expression in space. The question therefore inevitably arises in our minds: Who, in reality, built into the Church of St. Peter, through Michelangelo, the principles of mechanics only subsequently acquired by humanity through Galileo?
My dear friends, if the aphoristic and isolated thoughts that have been presented in connection with the historical development of humanity unite in your hearts to produce a feeling of how the spiritual powers themselves work in history through their instruments, you will have assimilated these lectures in the right way. And then it could be said that the feeling which arises in our hearts from the study of occult history is the right feeling for the way in which development and progress occur in the stream of time. Today, at this minor turning point of time, it may be fitting to direct our meditation to this feeling of the progress of men and of gods in the flow of history. If in the heart of each one of you this feeling for the science of occult progress in time were to become clear perception of the weaving, creative activity in the becoming of our own epoch, if this feeling could come alive within you, it might perhaps also live as a New Year's wish in your souls. And at the close of this course of lectures, this is the New Year's wish that I would fair lay in your hearts: Regard what has been said as the starting point of a true feeling for time. In a certain way it may be symbolical that we should have been able to use this minor transition from one period of time to another as an opportunity for allowing ideas which embrace such transitions in their sweep to take effect in our souls.
Source: January 1, 1911. GA 126
Rudolf Steiner, Stuttgart, December 31, 1910:
The glimpse into the development of individualities such as those whom we were able, in the lecture yesterday, to follow through two incarnations allows us to discern something of the mysterious inflow and activity of the cosmic spirits during the evolution and history of mankind. For when we keep before our minds the pictures which, in brief outline at least, came before us yesterday, the pictures of Julian the Apostate and of a later expression of this individuality in history as Tycho Brahe, the great astronomer, one thing may strike us particularly. Precisely in the case of personalities who signify something in history we can observe that the special qualities of the individuality work over from one incarnation into another; but that what spiritual beings of the higher hierarchies desire to accomplish in history, using single individuals as their instrument, asserts itself in the straightforward course of reincarnation as a modifying factor.
For we shall realize that in the 4th century A.D. it was the function of the individuality who appeared as Julian the Apostate to give as it were a last impetus for the final flaring up of the spiritual wisdom belonging to earlier epochs, and thus to preserve it from the fate that might easily have befallen it if struggling Christianity alone had been left to handle such treasures. And on the other hand we shall realize that an individuality incarnated in a man whose good fortune it was to be initiated into the Elusinian Mysteries had opportunities, on reincarnating, for receiving in endless abundance the impulses of the time and the influences of beings working in the way destined for the 16th century. We shall find entirely understandable the greatness and power of the personality of Tycho Brahe, as outlined yesterday, if we realize that precisely because he had been an initiate in an earlier incarnation he was able to bring to light an untold fund of macrocosmic science in its application to the microcosm. Such studies of occult history make us aware that it is men themselves who make history, but that history in the last resort becomes comprehensible only when we find the connection between the single personalities who appear and pass away and the individual threads which run through the whole course of human evolution, reincarnating in personalities. But if we are to understand the historical life of mankind on our Earth, we must always associate with it that which streams in from other worlds, supersensible worlds, through the powers of other hierarchies.
In the course of these lectures we have heard how certain high-ranking powers of the hierarchies have worked, through human beings, into all the civilization-epochs since the Atlantean catastrophe. This was most strongly evident in the ancient Indian soul, which may be said to have been simply an arena for the inflowing of higher spiritual beings. In the soul of the ancient Persian it was not so to the same extent. And then we heard how in Egypto-Chaldean civilization it was even then the mission of the human soul — noticeable particularly in the Babylonian people — to bring the super-personal down into the personal, the spiritual down to the physical plane. The significance of personality constantly increases the nearer we come to the Greek epoch, when the ego works and weaves in the ego. In the strong and forceful figures of the Greek epoch the stamp of personality is complete. It is with the Greeks, and later with the Romans, that what can at first be bestowed on the individuality only from higher worlds withdraws to the greatest extent, while what a man expresses in his personality as his proper humanity comes to the forefront.
The question may arise: Which particular spirits, from which hierarchies, worked through the ancient Indians, the ancient Persians, the Babylonians, Chaldeans, and Egyptians respectively It is the answer to this question that alone can give us deeper insight into the occult course of history. The investigations made possible from occult sources enable us, in a certain sense at any rate, to say which particular beings of the higher hierarchies worked through men as their instruments in each of these periods. Into the ancient Indian soul, which created the civilization immediately following the Atlantean catastrophe, the beings we call the Angeloi, the Angels, poured their forces. And in a certain connection it is true to say that when a man of ancient India spoke, when he gave expression to what was active in his soul, it was not his own egohood speaking directly, but an Angelos, an Angel. Ranking only one stage higher than man, the Angel is the hierarchical being most closely related to him and therefore able, as it were, to speak more directly. It is in the ancient Indian mode of speech that an element foreign to the human comes most strongly into evidence, because the Angel, as the being most closely related to man, is able to speak with the greatest directness.
This direct expression was less possible for the beings of the higher hierarchies who spoke through the souls of the ancient Persian people, for they were beings of the next higher rank — the Archangels. And because these beings stand two stages higher than man, what they were able to express by means of human instruments was farther away from their own inherent nature than what the Angels could express through the ancient Indians. Thus, stage by stage, everything becomes more human. Nevertheless this downflow from the higher hierarchies is continuous, unbroken. Through the souls of the Babylonian, Chaldean, Egyptian peoples, the Spirits of Personality (the Archai) express themselves. Hence it is in this period that the emergence of personality is most prominent, and what man is still able to give out from the forces streaming down to him is therefore the farthest removed from its origin, bearing the essential stamp of the human-personal. And so, as evolution advances to the Egypto-Babylonian epoch, there is a continuing manifestation of the Angels, the Archangels, and the Spirits of Personality.
In the ancient Persians, especially, we can see very exactly how they had an awareness that the Archangels — the spirits of paramount importance in that epoch — were working into the human organism, the human organism in its totality. We must not, to be sure, take an average Persian when considering the downflowing of forces from the hierarchies. The forces streamed down, too, upon the average Persian, but only those who were the immediate pupils of the inspirer of the ancient Persian culture, of Zarathustra himself, were capable of knowing how this happened, of seeing through to the reality. And they did indeed possess this knowledge. For you will remember from many descriptions I have given of the teachings of Zarathustra, or from exoteric traditions, that according to the view of the ancient Persians the primal Divinity, Zervana Akarana, reveals himself through the two opposing powers, Ormuzd and Ahriman. The ancient Persians were clearly aware that whatever comes to manifestation in the human being derives from the macrocosm, and that the phenomena of the macrocosm — especially, therefore, the movements and positions of the stars — are mysteriously connected with the microcosm, with man. Hence the pupils of Zarathustra saw in the Zodiac the external expression, the image, of Zervana Akarana, of the primal reality of Being living and weaving through eternity. Even the very word “Zodiac” is reminiscent of the word Zervana Akarana. The pupils of Zarathustra saw twelve powers proceeding from the twelve directions of the Zodiac, six directed toward the light side of the Zodiac traversed by the Sun by day; the other six toward the dark side — turned, as they said, towards Ahriman. Thus the Persian conceived of the macrocosmic forces coming from the twelve directions of the universe and penetrating into, working into humanity, so that they are immediately present in man. Consequently, what unfolds through the working of the twelve forces must reveal itself also in its microcosmic form, in human intelligence; that is to say, it must come to expression in the microcosm, too, through the twelve Amshaspands (Archangels), and indeed as a final manifestation, so to say, of these twelve spiritual, macrocosmic beings who had already worked in former ages, preparing that which merely reached a last stage of development during the epoch of Persian civilization.
It should not be beyond the scope of modern physiology to know where the microcosmic counterparts of the twelve Amshaspands are to be found. They are the twelve main nerves proceeding from the head; these are nothing else than material densifications of what arose in the human belong through the instreaming of the twelve macrocosmic powers. The ancient Persians pictured the twelve Archangel beings working from the twelve directions of the Zodiac, working into the human head in twelve rays, in order gradually to produce what is now our intelligence. Naturally they did not work into man for the first time in the ancient Persian epoch, but finally they worked in such a way that we can speak of twelve cosmic radiations, twelve Archangel radiations, which then densified in the human head into twelve main cerebral nerves. And just as knowledge in a later age includes what was already known in an earlier one, so could the Persians also know that spirits of a lower rank than the Archangels had been at work previously, in the Indian epoch. The Persians called the Beings of the rank below the Amshaspands “Izads,” and of these they enumerated 28 to 31. The Izads, therefore, are beings who give rise to a less lofty activity; to soul-activity in man. They send in their rays, which correspond to the 28, 30, to 31 spinal nerves. And so in Zarathustrianism you have our modern physiology translated into terms of the spiritual, the macrocosmic, in the twelve Amshaspands and in the 28 to 31 Izads of the next lower hierarchy.
A true fact of historical evolution is that what was originally seen spiritually is now presented to us through anatomical dissection; things that were formerly accessible to clairvoyant vision appear in later epochs in materialistic form. A wonderful bridge is disclosed here between Zarathustrianism, with its spirituality, and modern physiology, with its materialism. Of course, the destiny of the great majority of mankind makes it inevitable that such an idea as that of the connection between the Persian Amshaspands and Izads and our nerves is regarded as lunacy, especially by those who study the materialistic physiology of today. But after all, we have plenty of time, for the Persian epoch will be fully recapitulated only in the sixth epoch, which follows our own. Then, for the first time, the conditions prevailing will enable such things to be intelligible to a large part of humanity. Therefore we have to content ourselves with the fact that indications of them can be given today as part of the spiritual-scientific outlook. And such indications must be given if a spiritual-scientific conception of the world is to be spoken of in the true sense, and attention called, not merely in general phrases, to the fact that man is a microcosmic replica of the macrocosm.
In other regions, too, it has been known that what comes to manifestation in the human being flows in from outside. For example, in certain periods of Germanic mythology mention is made of twelve streams flowing from Niflheim to Muspelheim. The twelve streams are not meant in the physical-material sense, but they are that which, seen by clairvoyance, flows as a kind of reflection from the macrocosm into the human microcosm, the human being who moves over the Earth and whose evolution is to be brought about through macrocosmic forces.
It must however be emphasized that these streams are to be regarded today as astral streams, whereas in the Atlantean epoch, which immediately followed that of Lemuria, and in Lemuria itself, they could be seen as etheric streams. So a planet which is related to the Earth, but represents an earlier stage of development, must reveal some similar phenomenon. And as from a distance things can often be observed which in proximity escape our observation, because what we see is then broken up into details, so in the case of a planet resembling the Earth, when it is sufficiently distant and passing through earlier stages of development such as those undergone by our Earth, it might be possible, even today, to observe these twelve streams.
To be sure, they will not look quite the same as once they appeared when seen on the Earth. Distance is an essential factor, for if, to take an example, you are standing in the midst of a swarm of gnats, you do not see the swarm with its different shades of density; these are perceived only when you see the swarm from some way off. What I have just said lies at the root of the observations of so-called “canals” on Mars. It is there a matter of certain streams of force which correspond to an earlier stage of the Earth and are described in the old Germanic myths as streams flowing from Niflheim to Muspelheim. Naturally this is rank heresy from the point of view of modern academic physiology and astronomy, but these sciences will have to submit to a great deal of revision in the course of the next few thousand years.
All these things show us what profound wisdom is to be divined in the simple saying: The human microcosm is a kind of image of the macrocosm. Such sayings themselves bear witness that the words touch directly upon the deepest treasures of wisdom. The saying that man is a microcosm in relation to the macrocosm can be just a trivial phrase, but rightly understood it epitomizes an untold multitude of concrete truths. All this has been said in order to indicate to you the configuration of soul in the man of ancient Persian civilization; especially in the leading personalities there was a living feeling of man's connection with the macrocosm.
After the beings whom we have named in their sequence as Angels, Archangels, and Spirits of Personality had worked until the age of the Babylonian-Egyptian civilization, there followed that remarkable Greco-Latin civilization which brought the personality as such, the weaving of the ego in the ego, particularly to expression. There, too, certain beings made themselves manifest — the Spirits of Form, who are one stage higher than the Spirits of Personality. But the manifestation of these Spirits of Form was different from that of the Spirits of Personality, the Archangels, and the Angels. How do the Spirits of Personality, the Archangels, and the Angels manifest in the post-Atlantean epoch? They work into man's inner nature. The Angels worked as inspirers of the ancient Indians; the Archangels similarly in the ancient Persians, but here the influence of the human element already asserted itself to a somewhat greater degree. The Spirits of Personality stood as it were behind the souls of the Egyptians, urging them to project the spiritual onto the physical plane. The Spirits of Form manifest in a different way. They manifest from below upwards as far more powerful spirits who are not dependent upon using man merely as an instrument; they manifest in the kingdoms of Nature around us, in the configuration of the beings of the mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms. And if man would recognize the Spirits of Form in their manifestation, he must direct his gaze outwards, he must observe Nature and investigate what has been woven into her by the Spirits of Form. Consequently in the Greek epoch, when the paramount manifestation is that of the Spirits of Form, man does not receive any direct influence as an inspiration. The influence of the Spirits of Form works far rather in such a way that man is allured by the outer world of sense; his senses are directed with joy and delight toward everything spread out around him, and he tries to elaborate and perfect it. Thus the Spirits of Form attract him from without. And one of the chief Spirits of Form is the being designated as Jahve or Jehovah. Although there are seven Spirits of Form and they work in the different kingdoms of Nature, men of the present age have a faculty of perception only for the one Spirit: Jehovah. — If we reflect on all this, it will be intelligible to us that with the approach of the fourth epoch, man is more or less forsaken by these inner guiding powers, by the Angels, Archangels, and Spirits of Personality, and that he turns his gaze entirely to the external world, to the physical horizon where the Spirits of Form are in manifestation. They were of course already present behind the physical world in earlier times, but they had not as it were yielded themselves to human recognition. In the period immediately following the Atlantean catastrophe, the Spirits of Form had been at work; they had been at work in the kingdoms of Nature, in the laws governing wind and weather, in the laws of the plants, animals, and minerals. They had also worked in times more ancient still. But man did not direct his gaze to what then came to meet him externally, for he was inwardly inspired by the other spirits. His attention was diverted from the outer world.
How is this to be explained? In what sense are we to understand the fact that these other hierarchies, who are of a lower rank than the Spirits of Form, asserted their influence so dominantly over against the already existing activity of the Spirits of Form? This is connected with a definite period in the evolution of the Earth as a whole. To the clairvoyant vision which with the help of the Akasha Chronicle looks back into the past, these things present an appearance entirely different from the speculative pictures based on the geological data of the present day. When we go back before the activity of the Spirits of Personality in the Chaldean epoch, before that of the Archangels in the ancient Persian and of the Angels in the ancient Indian epoch, we come to the period when the Atlantean cataclysm was at the height of its fury. We find our way gradually into the conditions then prevailing. This is the time to which the legends of the Deluge existing among the different peoples refer, but their picture of it was very different from that drawn by the hypotheses of modern geology. In still earlier Atlantean times, the picture was again quite different. Man was a being capable of transformation. Before this catastrophe the whole face of the Earth was different from anything that can be imagined today. You can well conceive that at that time spiritual hierarchies worked into the Earth still more strongly.
Between the old influences in the Atlantean epoch and those in the post-Atlantean, there was a boundary period filled by the Atlantean catastrophe — by those events whereby the face of the Earth was totally changed in regard to the distribution of water and land. Such periods and changes consequent upon them are connected with mighty processes in the constellation, position, and movement of the cosmic bodies connected with the Sun. In fact, such periods in the Earth's evolution are determined and directed from macrocosmic space. It would lead too far if I were to attempt to describe to you how these successive periods are directed and regulated by what is called in modern astronomy the precession of the equinoxes. This is connected with the position of the Earth's axis in relation to the axis of the ecliptic, with mighty processes in the constellation of neighboring celestial bodies; and there are definite times when, on account of the particular position of the Earth's axis in relation to these other bodies of the cosmic system, the distribution of warmth and cold on our Earth is radically changed. This position of the Earth's axis in relation to the neighboring stars causes the climatic conditions to change. In the course of something over 25,000 years, the axis of the Earth describes a kind of conical or spherical movement, so that conditions undergone by the Earth at a certain time are undergone again, in a different form and indeed at a higher stage, after 25,000 to 26,000 years. But between these great periods of time there are always shorter periods. The process does not go forward in absolute, unvarying continuity, but in such a way that certain years are crucial points, deeply incisive times in which momentous happenings take place. And here, because it is of essential significance in the whole historical development of earthly humanity, we may point particularly to the fact that in the seventh millennium before Christ there was a very specially important astronomical epoch — important because, on account of the constellation brought about by the relative position of the Earth's axis to the neighboring stars, the climatic conditions on Earth culminated in the Atlantean cataclysm. This happened six to eight thousand years before our era, and the effects of it continued for long ages. Here we can only emphasize what is correct, as opposed to the fantastic periods of time that are mentioned, for these happenings lie much less far behind us than is generally believed. During this period the macrocosmic conditions worked into the physical in such a way as to bring about the mighty physical upheavals of the Atlantean cataclysm, which completely changed the face of the Earth. This was the greatest physical transformation of all, the most drastic action of the macrocosm upon the physical Earth. Hence the influence from the macrocosm upon the spirit of man at that time was at its lowest; this epoch therefore provided an opportunity for the less powerful beings of the hierarchies to begin to exercise on man a potent influence, which then ebbed gradually away.
Thus when the Spirits of Form were working powerfully to revolutionize the physical, they had less time to work also upon the spirit of man, with the result that the physical vanished as it were from under man's feet. But on the other hand it was precisely during the time of the Atlantean catastrophe that men were transported most completely into spiritual realms and only gradually found their way again into the physical world in the post-Atlantean epoch. Now, when you picture that at this time — six to eight thousand years before the Christian era — the least influence was exercised upon the human spirit and the strongest influence on the physical conditions of the Earth, it will not be difficult for you to conceive that there may be another point of time when the opposite situation comes about: when those who are cognizant of such a matter experience the reverse of these conditions — namely, the least influence upon the physical and the greatest influence, precisely of the Spirits of Form, upon the human spirit. Hypothetically you can conceive that there may be a point in history where the reverse of the great Atlantean catastrophe applies. Of course it will not be so easily noticeable, for the Atlantean catastrophe, when parts of the very Earth were blotted out, is bound to be a very striking event for people of our post-Atlantean epoch, with their strong leanings to the physical. When the Spirits of Form are exercising a powerful influence on the human personality and have only a little influence upon what is taking place in the external world, the impression will be less vivid. The point of time when this condition — in the nature of things, less perceptible to men — set in, was the year A.D. 1250. This year 1250 is of momentous importance in history. It fell in a period that can be characterized briefly as follows.
The spirits of men felt as though impelled to express with the greatest possible precision how the mind and heart can look upward to the divine beings above the other hierarchies, how man seeks to come into relation with these beings, conceived primarily as a unity, first through Jehovah, then through Christ, and how all human knowledge is to be applied to the unveiling of the mystery of Christ Jesus. That was a point of time especially adapted for conveying to mankind the mysteries which come to direct expression in the connection of the Spiritual with the working of Nature. Hence we see that this year 1250 was the starting point of great and detailed elaborations of what was formerly only believed, only divined: it was the starting point of Scholasticism, which is greatly undervalued today. It was also the starting point of revelations which found expression in spirits such as Agrippa of Nettesheim, and which took effect most deeply in Rosicrucianism. This shows that if we want to search for the deeper forces of historical development, we must take stock of conditions quite other than those outwardly in evidence. In point of fact, behind the things of which I have just been speaking there are also hidden the forces working, for example, in the waves and subsequent ebbing of the Crusades. The whole of European history, especially the flow of happenings between East and West, is attributable solely to the fact that forces are at work behind the events, as I have now elucidated.
We may therefore say: There are two points of time, one of them marked by a great upheaval on the outer physical plane, and the other by a change in character of all that had once resounded in the secrecy of the Mysteries. But we must keep well in mind that in all such matters there are again other laws which cut across the main laws. Hence we can understand that in this period there lies the starting point for great revelations; that this period is entirely in keeping with the appearance of a man such as Julian the Apostate, who had once been inspired in the Eleusinian Mysteries. At that time he had opened his soul to the revelations coming from the Spirits of Form. But the initial onset of a powerful influence always works for a period of about four hundred years; then it begins to ebb and the streams, as it were, to separate. Hence the eventual effect of what had been perceived at that time as spiritual reality behind the manifestations of Nature was that men forgot the spiritual and paid attention only to the manifestations of Nature. That is the modern mentality. Tycho Brahe is one of the last of those who still grasped the reality of the spiritual behind the data constituting the sciences of external Nature. Tycho Brahe was a truly wonderful personality, because with his supreme mastery of external astronomy he discovered thousands of stars, and at the same time he had such deep inner knowledge of the sway of the spiritual powers that he could astonish all Europe by boldly predicting the death of the Sultan Soliman. We see how out of the spiritual nature-knowledge, which begins to appear in 1250 and is exemplified in spirits such as Agrippa of Nettesheim, there gradually emerges what later on amounts merely to perception of the manifestations of external Nature; while the inner, the spiritual, remains in that mysterious stream known to us as Rosicrucianism. Then the two streams flow on.
It is indeed remarkable how this process shows itself in actual personalities. Once, near the beginning of our German movement, I drew your attention to how in a personality of the 15th century there appears the continuance of a spiritual movement still connected with a certain knowledge of Nature, and how the spiritual is then cast aside and the further course is a purely external one. We can follow this in the case of a single individuality: Nicolaus Cusanus (1401-1464). The mere reading of his works — and one can do much more than read — shows clearly that he combined a most penetrating spiritual vision with knowledge of outer Nature, especially where this knowledge is clothed in mathematical forms. And because he perceived how difficult this was, in an age moving more and more toward external learning, he entitled his work, with epoch-making humility, Docta Ignorantia, “Learned Ignorance.” He did not of course mean to imply that he was himself an utter dunce, but that what he had to say was above the level of what was going to develop as mere external learning. To use a prefix much in vogue nowadays, we may say: this “Learned Ignorance” is a “super”-learnedness. Then, as you know, he was born again — it was a case of a very quick reincarnation — as Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543). The same being who had lived in Nicolaus Cusanus continued to work in Nicolaus Copernicus. But you can see how far human mentality had moved by that time toward the physical, for the depth of knowledge possessed by Nicolaus Cusanus could work in Copernicus only in such a way as to produce the plan of the outer, physical cosmos. The knowledge that had lived in Nicolaus Cusanus was as it were filtered; the spiritual was ignored and re-cast in terms of external science. There we have a tangible illustration of how that mighty impulse was to work within a short period from the year 1250, which was its central point in time. What streamed into our Earth at this point of time worked on its own way. It worked on in these two streams, one of which is materialistic and will become ever more so, while the other strives for the spiritual, manifesting particularly in what we know as the Rosicrucian revelation, which flowed in greatest intensity from this very starting point, although there had of course been previous preparation.
So you see that there is a certain epoch, lasting for about six to eight thousand years, during which Earth evolution passes through an important cycle in regard to the historical facts with which man's development is interwoven. Such cycles are again intersected by others, for periodic forces of the most diverse kinds work into our Earth evolution. Only when we analyze, when we investigate, the particular forces and their configurations — only then can we really fathom how things come to pass on the Earth. Through all such forces and laws mankind is brought forward and human progress effected. You know, too, that in our century, but proceeding from a different stream, there is an important point of time indicated in the Rosicrucian Mystery play The Portal of Initiation: vision once again into the etheric world and the revelation of Christ in that world. But that belongs to a different stream — I am speaking now more of forces that work into the broad basis of historical happenings.
If we want to understand these happenings fully, we must also take into consideration that such crucial points in evolution are always connected with certain positions of the stars, and that in the year 1250 the Earth's axis lay in a definite position and was therefore related in a particular way to the so-called minor axis of the ecliptic. When we take account of the fact that what happens on the Earth is brought about by great celestial conditions, even external climates show us that further specialization and differentiation take place in the sphere of the Earth itself. Because the forces work in a certain way from the cosmos, the Earth is girdled by the torrid zone, then the temperate zone, then the arctic zone. This can be taken as a kind of example of how what is brought about by spiritual happenings, through the Sun and other factors, takes effect on the physical plane. But there is again differentiation on the Earth itself; in the torrid zone the climate of low-lying land is not the same as on heights, where it can be extremely cold. Hence in the same latitude there is a quite different distribution of climatic conditions to be observed in Africa, say, as compared with America. There is also something in spiritual evolution which allows of comparison with this kind of differentiation; for it is really true that in epochs during which a definite character due to the stellar constellations is widely predominant over the Earth, modifications, special conditions, come about in the activities of the spiritual beings and in the souls of men.
This is of great importance, for from time to time provision has obviously to be made for the distant future. Just imagine — naturally this is said hypothetically — that the wise leadership of the world was obliged, thousands of years ago, to say: There is a group of souls who must be prepared in order to accomplish this or that task in their next incarnations. — In such a case, connections have to be created so that perhaps a small group of men who have undergone some quite definite happening, who are incarnated together on a little corner of the earth, can pass through an experience which, at that particular time, may seem unimportant. But when we perceive how such men, having been crowded together in a small area, are scattered abroad in their next incarnations, and make effective for humanity as a whole what they received when they were living in this narrow compass — then the matter takes on a very different aspect. And so we can understand that in times when the general character of mankind has a certain definite quality, something very surprising may make its appearance in separate sections of civilization, something that is entirely distinct from the prevailing character. I will give you an example of this, because it lies fairly near our own time.
In Steinthal, near Strassburg, Oberlin lived. The deep-thinking German psychologist and researcher G. H. von Schubert has repeatedly referred to him. This Oberlin was an unusual personality and he had a strange effect upon people. He was clairvoyant — I can allude to this only briefly — and after he had lost his wife comparatively early, he was able to live with her individuality in a communion as real as with a living person. Day by day he made notes of what was happening in the world where his wife now dwelt; he also marked this on a map of the heavens and showed it to the people who gathered around him, so that actually a whole community shared in the life Oberlin was leading with his deceased wife. Such a thing is strangely out of place at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries; but if you take what I have said into consideration, you will grasp what it portends. Things such as were revealed to Oberlin are among the most significant in this domain in modern times. I may perhaps remind you that we now have a very fine literary and historical work dealing with Oberlin and these affairs: it is the novel by Fritz Lienhard. You will find it extraordinarily stimulating reading, with regard not only to the character of this priest but also to the cultural conditions of those days. Such things, which can easily be underestimated and regarded as chance, are able to show us how an occurrence of this kind strikes into evolution, how it can take effect in the whole process of the evolution of mankind. For the human beings who are thrown together in such circumstances, who gather around a personality as the central figure, are destined to undertake certain tasks in later incarnations.
So you see — and this is what I wanted to bring before you today — how the great macrocosmic penetration from the vast universe into the souls of men is connected with what may take place in a minute arena. But these things become especially interesting if we connect them with another law, with such points of intersection in evolution as was the year 1250. At that time there was the strongest possible penetration into the souls of men — and that is not so readily noticed as the upheavals of continents. During the Atlantean catastrophe the Spirits of Form worked so little into the souls of men that the younger hierarchies held the field, as it were, at that time. Thus the activities of the different ranks of hierarchical beings are distributed. And it is important to know that again in these cyclic movements certain laws of ascent and decline prevail. I indicated something of this when I said that in the year 1250 there was an impetus and then an ebbing away which manifested in the current of materialism. Such things are often to be perceived. And it is interesting to notice how cycles of ascent and of decline alternate in the history of mankind.
Friday, October 28, 2022
Rudolf Steiner: "Everything I am becomes clear to me when my earlier earthly existence penetrates the present one and shines through it and wanders through it and pulses through it. For here I am. My present I is in a process, it is a seed which will have meaning once I have passed through the gates of death. What shines and works in me from the previous earthly existence into the present one makes me into a human being, engenders me as an existing human being."
Rudolf Steiner, Stuttgart, December 30, 1910:
From indications in the preceding lecture you will have been able to gather that in a certain respect the Greco-Latin civilization-epoch lies in the middle of the post-Atlantean epoch as a whole. The three preceding civilization-epochs are as it were a preparation for that activity of the human soul which characterizes Greek culture: the ego working in the ego. The culture of the ancient Indian, Persian, and Egyptian epochs represents a descent from clairvoyant vision to purely human vision in the Greek epoch. What begins with our own age, and must be attained in ever-increasing measure during the coming centuries and millennia, should be conceived as a reascent, a reattainment of forms of culture imbued with clairvoyance. The Egypto-Babylonian-Chaldean epoch is therefore to be regarded as the last stage of preparation for the essentially human culture of Greece. In the preceding, third, post-Atlantean epoch, man descends from the old clairvoyant conditions which enabled him to participate directly in the life of the spiritual world, in preparation for the purely personal, purely human culture characterized by the activity of soul that may be described as “the ego works in the ego.” Hence we saw how the vision into earlier incarnations which had been implicit in clairvoyant culture was, to begin with, uncertain and indistinct in Gilgamish, the inaugurator of the Babylonian civilisation; how even when Eabani had as it were endowed him with certain faculties for looking back into earlier incarnations, he was not really sure of his bearings. And everything we see transmitted to posterity through the activity of these Babylonian souls is entirely in accordance with this descent from spiritual heights and entry into the purely personal element that is peculiarly characteristic of the Babylonian soul.
In studying the occult aspect of history it is borne in upon us more and more that with their activities and cultural achievements the several peoples by no means stand isolated in world evolution, in the general progress of humanity. Each people has its spiritual task, a special contribution to make to human progress. Our civilization today is extremely complex, for many single streams of culture have converged in it. In our present spiritual life and in external life, too, there is a confluence of the most varied folk cultures which were developed more or less one-sidedly by the several peoples in accordance with their own missions, and then flowed into the general stream. Hence the single peoples all differ from one another; in each case we can speak of a particular mission. And we may ask: To what can we, who have received into our own culture the work achieved for civilization by our forefathers — to what can we point that will show us what contribution was made by this or that people to the general progress of humanity?
It is deeply interesting here to think of the task and mission of the Babylonian people. The Babylonian people presented a great riddle to historical research in the 19th century as a result of the decipherment of the cuneiform writing. And even the superficial information which it has been possible to acquire is in the highest degree noteworthy. For the researcher can state today that the length of time formerly accepted as historical has been almost doubled by the information gained through the decipherment of the cuneiform script. Evidence provided by external records themselves enables historical research to look back five and six thousand years before the Christian era, and to affirm that through the whole of this period a civilization of greatness and significance existed in the regions which later on were the scene of the activities of the Babylonians and Assyrians. There, above all in the earliest times, lived a most remarkable people, known in history as the Sumerians. They lived in the regions around the Euphrates and the Tigris, mainly in the upper districts but also toward the lower. There is not enough time to go into the question of the historical records themselves and we must rather concern ourselves with what can be learnt from occult history.
In their thought and spiritual achievements, and also in their outer accomplishments, this people belonged to a comparatively very early stage of post-Atlantean civilization. And the farther we go back in the history of the Sumerians, who may be called the predecessors of the Babylonians, the more evident it becomes that spiritual traditions of the highest significance were alive in this people, that there was present among them a spiritual wisdom which may be described by saying that in them the whole mode of life, the way of living not in thought alone, but in the very soul and spirit, was entirely different from anything that developed in later periods of world history. In the men of later times there is evidence, for example, of a certain hiatus between the thought and the spoken word. How can anyone fail to realize today that thinking and speaking are two quite different matters, that in a certain respect speech consists of conventional means of expression for what is being thought. This is evident from the very fact that through our many different languages we express a great many common ideas. Thus there is a certain hiatus between thinking and speaking. It was not so among the Sumerians, this ancient people whose language was related to the soul quite differently from what came to be the rule in all later languages. Especially when we go back into times of the greatest antiquity we find something like a primal human language — although no longer preserved, even then, in complete purity. True, we already find differentiation in the languages of the various tribes and races in widespread areas of Europe, Asia, and Africa, but there existed among the Sumerians a kind of common speech element which was intelligible through the whole of the then known Earth, especially to more deeply spiritual men. How was this possible? It was because a tone or a sound evoked a definite feeling and the soul was bound to express unequivocally what was felt in association with a particular thought and at the same time with a particular sound.
Let me indicate what this implies by saying that even in the names I quoted from the Epic of Gilgamish — even there striking sounds are still to be found: Ishtar, Ishulan, and the like. When these sounds are pronounced and their occult value is known, one realizes that they are names in which the sounds should not be other than they are if they are to designate the beings in question, because U(oo), I(ee), and A(ah) can relate only to something quite specific. In the course of the further development of language men have lost the feeling that sounds—consonantal and vowel sounds—are related to specific realities, so that in those ancient times a thing could be designated only by a definite combination of sounds. As little as when we have some definite object in mind today do we have a fundamentally different idea of it in England and in Germany, as little could men in those times designate some object or being otherwise than by a specific combination of sounds, because the immediate spiritual feeling for sounds was still alive. So that language in ancient times — and in the Sumerian language there was an echo of it — bore a quite definite character and was intelligible to one who listened to it simply because of the nature of the soul. This applies, of course, to the very earliest post-Atlantean civilizations.
But it was the task of the Babylonian people to lead this living connection of man with the spiritual world down into the personal, to the realm where the personality is based entirely upon itself in its separateness, in its singularity. It was the mission of the Babylonians to lead the spiritual world down to the physical plane. And with this is connected the fact that the living, spiritual feeling for language ceases and language adjusts itself according to such factors as climate, geographical position, race, and the like. The Bible — which narrates these things more accurately than do the phantasies of the self-styled philologist Fritz Mauthner, describes this significant truth in the story of the Babylonian Tower of Babel, whereby men who speak a common language are scattered over the earth. When we know that the erection of sacred buildings in ancient times was guided by certain principles, we can also understand this Tower of Babel in the spiritual sense. Buildings intended to serve as places where certain acts dedicated to the sacred wisdom were to be performed, or which were to stand as signs and tokens of the holy truths—such buildings were erected according to measures derived either from the heavens or from the human structure. Fundamentally, these are identical, for man as the microcosm is a replica of the macrocosm. Therefore the measures to be found in buildings such as the pyramids are taken from the heavens and from the human body.
If we were to go back into relatively early times, we should find in sacred buildings symbolic representations of the measures contained in the human structure or in the phenomena of the heavens. Length, breadth, depth, the architectural form of the interior — everything was modeled on the measures of the heavens or those of the human body. This was possible because when there was living consciousness of man's connection with the spiritual world, the measures were brought down from that world. What, then, was bound to happen when human knowledge was to be led down from the heavens to the Earth, from the universal spiritual-human to the human-personal? The measures could then be taken only from man himself, from the human personality in so far as it is an expression of the single egohood. Thus the Tower of Babel was to be the cultic center for men who were henceforward to derive the measures from the human personality. But at the same time it had to be shown that the personality must first mature to the stage of being able again to ascend to the spiritual worlds. The fourth and the fifth civilization-epochs must be lived through before the reascent is possible — which it would not have been at that time. That the heavens were not yet within the reach of powers deriving from the human personality — this is indicated by the fact that the Tower of Babel was bound to be an unhappy affair. Infinite depths are contained in this world-symbol of the Tower of Babel through which men were limited to the personality as such; to what the personality could achieve under the particular conditions prevailing among some race or people.
Thus the Babylonians were led downward from the spiritual world to our Earth; there lay their mission and their task. But, as I have already said, underlying the external Babylonian civilization there was a Chaldean Mystery culture which, while remaining esoteric, nevertheless flowed quite definitely into the outer civilization. Hence we see the primeval wisdom still glimmering through in the ways and means available to the Babylonians. But these means were not to be used for the purpose of ascending into the spiritual regions; they were to be applied on the Earth. This element in the mission of the Babylonians was embodied in their culture and has come down to our own times, as can be demonstrated. We must, however, learn to have at least some respect for that still great and powerful vision into the spiritual worlds which nurtured the old traditions in the soul and over which the shadows of twilight were only just beginning to creep. We must learn to have respect for the profound knowledge of the heavens possessed by the Babylonians, and for their great mission, which lay in drawing forth from what was known to mankind through vision of the spiritual world, from the laws of measure prevailing in the heavens, everything that must be incorporated into civilization for the needs of outer, practical life. At the same time it was their mission to relate everything to man. And it is interesting that certain ideas have lived on into our own times, ideas that are like an echo of feelings that were still living experiences in the Babylonians — feelings of the inflow of the macrocosm into man of a law which, holding sway in man as an earthly personality, mirrors the great law of the heavens.
In ancient Babylon there was a saying: “Look at a man who goes about not as a greybeard and not as a child, who moves about as a healthy, not as a sick being, who neither runs too swiftly nor walks too slowly — and you will behold the measure of the Sun's course.” It is a momentous saying and one that can point us deeply into the souls of the ancient Babylonians. For they pictured that if a man with a good healthy gait, a man who maintains a pace in his walking consonant with healthiness of life, were to walk round the earth neither too quickly or too slowly, he would need 365¼ days to complete the circuit — and that is approximately correct, assuming he walks day and night without pause. And so they said: “That is the time in which a healthy human being could complete the circuit of the Earth, and it is also the length of time which the Sun takes to move around the Earth” (for they believed in the apparent movement of the Sun around the Earth). “If therefore you walk as a healthy human being, neither too quickly nor too slowly around the Earth, you are keeping the tempo of the Sun's course.” And this means: “O Man, it lies in your very health that you keep the pace of the course of the Sun around the Earth.”
This is certainly something that can inspire us with respect for the majestic vision of the cosmos possessed by the Babylonian people. For on this basis they divided up the journey of a man around the Earth, using certain fractional measures and then arriving at a result approximately equal to the distance covered by a man when he walks for two hours: this comes to about a mile. (Note by translator: a German mile equals about five English miles.) They calculated this on the basis of a normal, healthy pace and adopted it as a kind of norm for measuring the ground on a larger scale. And in fact this measure persisted until fairly recently—when everything in human evolution became abstract — in the German mile, which can be covered in about two hours. And so there lasted on into the 19th century something that stems from the mission of the ancient Babylonians, who brought it down from the cosmos, calculating it in accordance with the course of the Sun.
Not until our own time were these measures which originated from man's nature itself reduced inevitably to abstract measures taken from something ideal. For it is obvious that measure today is abstract in comparison with the concrete measures directly connected with man and with the phenomena of the heavens — measures which are in truth all to be traced back to the mission of the Babylonian people. In the case of other measures too, such as the “foot,” derived from a human limb, or the “ell,” derived from the human hand and arm, we could find underlying them something that had been discovered as law prevailing in man, the macrocosm. In point of fact the ancient Babylonian way of thinking still underlay our system of measure until a time not so very long ago. The twelve zodiacal constellations and the five planets gave the Babylonians 5 times 12 = 60 — this they took as a basic number. They counted up to 60 and then began again. Whenever they were counting things of everyday life they took the number 12 as the basis, because, since it derives from laws of the cosmos, it is related in a far more concrete way to all external conditions. The number 12 is capable of much division. Twelve — the dozen — is nothing else than a gift from the mission of the Babylonians. We ourselves base everything on 10 — a number which causes great difficulty when it has to be divided into parts, whereas the dozen, both in its relation to 60 and in its various possibilities of division, is eminently suited to be the basis of a metrical and numerical system.
When it is said that humanity has sailed into abstraction even in respect of calculation and counting, this is not intended as a criticism of our time, for one epoch cannot do the same as the preceding epoch. If we want to portray the course of civilization from the Atlantean catastrophe to the Greek period and on through our own, we may say: The Indian, Persian, and Egyptian epochs are periods of descent; in Greek civilization the point is reached where the essentially human is unfolded on the physical plane; then the reascent begins. But this reascent is such that it represents one aspect only of the actual course of development, and on the other side there is a progressive descent into materialism. Hence in our time, side by side with spiritual endeavor there is the crassest materialism which sinks deeply, deeply into matter. These things are natural parallels. This current of materialism is inevitably present as an obstacle which has to be overcome in order that a higher force may be developed. But it is the nature of this materialistic current to make everything abstract. The whole decimal system is an abstract system. This is not criticism but simply characterization. And in other directions, too, the whole tendency is to suppress the concrete reality. Just think of the proposals that have been put forward — for example to make the Easter Festival fall an a fixed day in April, in order that the inconveniences caused to commerce and industry may be avoided! No heed is given to the fact that there we still have something which, determined as it is by the heavens, reaches over to us from ancient times. Everything has to run into abstraction, and concrete reality, which presses on again to the spiritual, flows into our civilization to begin with only as a tiny trickle.
It is extraordinarily interesting to see how not only in spiritual science, but outside it as well, humanity is instinctively impelled to take the upward path, to ascend again, let us say to a connection with measure, number, and weight similar to that which prevailed in the ancient Babylonians and Egyptians. For in our time there is actually a kind of repetition of Babylonian and Egyptian culture; the civilization-epochs preceding our era repeat themselves: the Egyptian in our own epoch, the Persian in the sixth, the Indian in the seventh. The first corresponds with the seventh, the second with the sixth, the third with the fifth, our own; the fourth stands by itself, forming the middle. For this reason, so much that went to form the ancient Egyptian view of the world is being repeated instinctively. Remarkable things come to light. Men may be rooted in thoroughly materialistic ideas and concepts; nevertheless through the weight of the facts themselves—not through the scientific theories, all of which are materialistic today — they can be led into the spiritual life. For example, there is in Berlin an interesting doctor who has made remarkable observations based entirely on facts, apart from any theory. I will indicate it on the blackboard. — Let us suppose that this point represents the date of a woman's death. I am not speaking of a hypothetical case but of something that has been actually observed. — The woman is the grandmother of a family. A certain number of days before her death a grandchild is born, the number of days being 1,428. Strange to say, 1,428 days after the grandmother's death another grandchild is born, and a great-granddaughter 9,996 days after her death. Divide 9,996 by 1,428, and you have 7. After a period, therefore, seven times the length of the period between the birth of the first grandchild and the death of the grandmother, a great grandchild is born. And now the same doctor shows that this is not an isolated case, but that one may investigate a number of families and invariably find that in respect of death and birth absolutely definite numerical relationships are in evidence. And the most interesting point of all is that if, for example, you take the number 1,428, again you have a number divisible by seven. In short, the very facts compel people today to rediscover in the succession of outer events certain regularities, certain periodicities, which are connected with the old sacred numbers. And already today the number of findings in this direction collected by Fliess — such is the name of the doctor in Berlin — and his students is a proof that the sequence of such events is regulated by quite definite numbers. These figures are already available in overwhelming quantity. The interpretation placed upon them is thoroughly materialistic, but the facts themselves compel belief in the factor of number in world happenings. I must emphasize that the application of this principle by Fliess and his students is extremely misleading and erroneous. The way he applies his main numbers, especially 23 and 28 — 28 = 4 times 7 — will have to be amended in many respects. Nevertheless, in a study such as this we can see something like an instinctive emergence of ancient Babylonian culture in the age when mankind is on the path of ascent. Of course, such things are confined to small circles; the vast majority of people have no feeling for them. But it is certainly remarkable to see the unusual thoughts and feelings which arise in people such as the pupils of Fliess, for example, who discover these things. One of these pupils says: “If these things had been known in ancient times, whatever would men have said?” — But they were known! And the following passage seems to me particularly characteristic.
After this pupil of Fliess has collected a great deal of such material, he says: “Periods constructed on the clearest mathematical principles are here derived from nature, and such things have at all times been beyond the reach of gifted minds accustomed to far more difficult problems. With what religious fervor would the Babylonians, with their love of calculation, have investigated this domain and with what magic would these questions have been surrounded.” — So you see how near people have already come to an inkling of what has actually happened! How unmistakably man's instinct is working once again in the direction of the spiritual life! But just where the science current in our time passes blindly by, there is much to be found that sheds great illumination on the occult force of which people are completely unconscious. Those who draw attention to this remarkable law of numbers explain it in an altogether materialistic way; but the weight of the facts themselves is already compelling people today once again to recognize the spiritual, mathematical law prevailing in the things of the world. We see how deeply true it is that everything which comes to expression in personal form in the later course of human evolution is a shadow image of what was present formerly in elemental, original grandeur, because the connection with the spiritual world was still intact.
In order that it may be deeply inscribed in your souls, I want to emphasize that it was the Babylonians who in their transition to the fourth civilization-epoch had, as it were, to bring down the heavens into measure, number, weight; that in our own day we experience the echo of it; and that we shall find our way again to this technique of numbers which will inevitably come more and more into prominence, although in other domains of life an abstract system of measure and number is naturally the appropriate one. Here again, then, we can see how on the path of descent a certain point is reached in the Greco-Latin cultivation of pure, essential manhood, of the expression of personality on the physical plane, and how then a reascent begins. So that in very fact the Greek epoch lies in the middle of the whole course of post-Atlantean civilization.
But we must remember that in this Greek epoch there came the impulse of Christianity which is to lead humanity upward into other regions. We have already seen how in the first phase of its development this Christianity did not at once appear with its full significance, with its spiritual content and substance. The behavior of the men of Alexandria toward Hypatia gave us a picture of the failings and the shadow sides with which Christianity was fraught at the beginning. It has indeed often been stressed that the times have yet to come when Christianity will be understood in all its profundity, that there are still infinite and unfathomed depths in Christianity, which really belongs more to the future than to the present — let alone to the past. We see how in Christianity something still in the throes of birth places itself into what had entered into the heritage of primeval world-wisdom and spirituality. For what the culture of Greece had received, what it bore within itself, was actually like a heritage of everything that in countless incarnations had been acquired by men through their living connection with the spiritual world. All the spirituality experienced in the preceding ages had sunk down into the hearts and souls of the Greeks and lived itself out in them. Hence it is understandable — especially in view of what had resulted from the Christian impulse in the first centuries — that there were men who could not regard the coming of Christianity as equal in value to all that had been transmitted to Greek culture with overwhelming greatness and depth of spirituality, as an ancient heritage of thousands of years.
There was a particularly characteristic personality who experienced as it were within his own breast this battle of the old with the new, this battle between treasures of primordial, spiritual wisdom and what was only at its very beginning — a feebly flowing stream. This personality of the Greco-Latin epoch in the 4th century, who experienced these things in the arena of his own soul, was Julian the Apostate. It is interesting in the very highest degree to follow the life of the Roman Emperor Julian. He was a nephew of the ambitious, revengeful Emperor Constantine, and the intention was that he and his brother should both be put to death in childhood. He was allowed to live only because it was feared that his death would cause too great an uproar, and because it was expected that whatever harm he might be able to do could afterwards be counteracted. Julian was obliged to acquire his education through many wanderings among various communities, and strict care was taken to ensure that he should imbibe what at that time was accepted, for opportunistic reasons, in Rome and by Rome, by the Roman Empire, as Christian development. This, however, was a hotchpotch of what took shape by degrees as the Catholic Church and what existed as Arianism, the desire being that neither element should be impaired by the other. And so at that time hostility against the old Hellenistic-Pagan ideal, the ancient Gods and the ancient Mysteries, was fairly vehement on all sides. As I said, every effort was made to ensure that Julian, who might be expected eventually to succeed to the throne of the Cæsars, should become a good Christian.
But a strange urge was asserting itself in this soul. This soul could never really acquire any deep feeling for Christianity. Wherever the boy was taken, and wherever vestiges not only of ancient Paganism but of ancient spirituality still survived, his heart warmed to it. Wherever he found something of the old sacred traditions and institutions living on into the civilization of the fourth epoch, he drank it in. And so it happened that on his many wanderings, to which he was driven by the persecutions meted out to him by his uncle the Emperor, he came into contact with teachers of the so-called Neo-Platonic School and with pupils of the men of Alexandria, who had received the old traditions handed down from there. It was then that for the first time Julian's heart was nourished with that to which he was so deeply drawn. And then he came to know such treasures of ancient wisdom as still existed in Greece itself. And with all that Greece gave him, with all that the old world gave him in the way of wisdom, Julian could not but unfold a living feeling for the language of the heavens, for the secrets which in the starry script speak down to us from cosmic space. Then came the time when he was initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries by one of the last hierophants; and in Julian we have the strange spectacle that one who is inspired by the ancient Mysteries, one who stands fully within what can be received when the spiritual life becomes a reality through the Mysteries—that such an initiate sits on the throne of the Cæsars. And although many misconceptions crept into Julian's writings against the Christians, we know what greatness there was in his conception of the world when he was speaking out of the majestic experiences of his initiation.
But because as a pupil of Mysteries already in decline he did not rightly know how to find his bearings in the times, he faced the martyrdom looming before one who is inspired but is no longer aware of which secrets must be kept hidden and which may legitimately be communicated. Out of the ardor and enthusiasm kindled in Julian by his Hellenistic education and through his initiation, out of the sublime experiences which the hierophant had enabled him to undergo, there arose in him the resolve to reestablish what he beheld as the active, weaving life of the ancient spirituality. And so we see him endeavoring by many ways and means to introduce the old Gods again into a civilization already penetrated by Christianity. He went too far both in the matter of speaking openly of the Mystery secrets and in his attitude toward Christianity. And so it came about that in the year 363, when he had to conduct a military campaign against the Persians, he was overtaken by his destiny. Just as destiny overtakes anyone who has unlawfully uttered those things which may not be uttered without authorization, so it was in the case of Julian, and there is historical proof that on this expedition against the Persians he fell by the hand of a Christian. For not only did this news spread abroad very soon afterwards and has never been disavowed by any of the Christian writers of note, but it would have been highly astonishing if the Persians had brought about the death of their arch-enemy without boasting about it. Among them, too, the view prevailed immediately afterwards that Julian had fallen by the hand of a Christian. It was really something like a storm that went forth from this inspired soul, from the fiery enthusiasm acquired from initiation into the Eleusinian Mysteries which were already approaching their period of twilight. Such was the destiny of a man of the 4th century, of an entirely personal human being whose world-karma consisted, essentially, in living out in personal anger, personal resentment, and personal enthusiasm, the heritage he had received. That was the fundamental law prevailing in his life.
For the study of occult history, it is interesting to observe the later course taken by this particular life, this particular individuality. During the 16th century, in the year 1546, a remarkable man was born of a noble house of northern Europe, and in his very cradle, so to speak, everything was laid — including family wealth — that could have led him to positions of great honor in the traditional life of that time. Because, in line with his family traditions, it was intended that he should occupy some eminent political or other high position, he was marked out for the legal profession and sent with a tutor to the University of Leipzig to study jurisprudence. The tutor tormented the boy — for he was still a boy when he was forced to study law — all day long. But at night, while the tutor was sleeping the sleep of the just and dreaming of legal theories, the boy stole out of bed and observed the stars with the very simple instruments he had himself devised. And very soon he knew not only more than any of the teachers about the secrets of the stars but more than was to be found at that time in any book. For example, he very soon noticed a definite position of Saturn and Jupiter in the constellation of Leo, turned to the books and found that they recorded it quite erroneously. The longing then arose in him to acquire as exact a knowledge as possible of this star-script, to record as accurately as possible the course of the stars. No wonder that in spite of all his family's resistance he soon extracted the permission to become a natural philosopher and astronomer, instead of dreaming his life away over legal books and doctrines. And having considerable means at his disposal, he was able to set up a whole establishment.
This was arranged in a remarkable way. In the upper stories were instruments designed for observing the secrets of the stars; in the cellars there was equipment for bringing about different combinations and dissolutions of substances. And there he worked, dividing his time between observations carried out on the upper floors of the building and the boiling, fermenting, mixing, and weighing which went on in the cellars below. There he worked, in order to show, little by little, how the laws that are written in the stars, the laws of the planets and fixed stars, the macrocosmic laws, are to be found again microcosmically in the mathematical numbers underlying the combinations and dissolutions of substances. And what he discovered as a living connection between the heavenly and the earthly he applied to the art of medicine, producing medicaments which were the cause of bitter animosity around him because he gave them freely to those he wanted to help. The doctors at that time, intent upon extorting high fees, raged against this man who was accused of perpetrating all sorts of “horrors” with what he endeavored to bring down from the heavens to the earth.
Fortunately, as the result of a certain happening, he found favor with the Danish king, Frederick the Second, and as long as he retained this favor all went well: tremendous insight was gained into the spiritual working of cosmic laws in the sense I have just described. This man did indeed know something about the spiritual course of cosmic laws. He dumbfounded the world with things which admittedly would no longer find the same credence today. On one occasion, when he was at Rostock, he prophesied, from the constellation of the stars, the death of the Sultan Soliman, which came true within a few days of the date he had foretold. The news of this made the name of Tycho Brahe famous in Europe. Today the world at large knows hardly anything more of Tycho Brahe, whose life lies such a short time behind us, than that he was somewhat of a crank and never quite reached the lofty standpoint of modern materialism. He recorded a thousand stars for the first time in the maps of the heavens and also made the epoch-making discovery of a type of star, the “nova,” which flares up and vanishes again, and described it. But these things are mostly passed over in silence. The world really knows nothing about him except that he was still “stupid” enough to devise a plan of the cosmos in which the Earth stands still and the Sun together with the planets revolve around it. That is what the world in general knows today. The fact that we have to do here with a significant personality of the 16th century, with one who accomplished an infinite amount that even today is still useful to astronomy, that untold depths of wisdom are contained in what he gave — none of this is usually recorded, for the simple reason that in presenting the system in detail, out of his own deep knowledge, Tycho Brahe saw difficulties which Copernicus did not see. If such a thing dare be said — for it does indeed seem paradoxical — even with the Copernican cosmic system the last word has not yet been uttered. And the conflict between the two systems will still occupy the minds of a later humanity. — That, however, only by the way; it is too paradoxical for the present age.
It was only under the successor of the king who had been well-disposed toward him that the enemies of Tycho Brahe arose an all sides. They were doctors and professors at the University of Copenhagen, and they succeeded in inciting the successor of his patron against him. Tycho Brahe was driven from his fatherland and was obliged to go south again. It was in Augsburg that he had originally set up his first great planisphere and the gilded globe on which he always marked the new stars he discovered — finally amounting to a thousand. This man was destined to die in exile in Prague. To this very day, if we turn not to the usual textbooks but to the actual sources, and study Kepler, let us say, we can still see that Kepler was able to arrive at his laws because of the meticulous astronomical observations made by Tycho Brahe before him. Here indeed was a personality who again bore the stamp, in a grand style, of what had been great and significant wisdom before his time; one who could not reconcile himself to the kind of knowledge that became popular immediately afterwards in the shape of the materialistic view of the world. Truly it is a strange destiny, this destiny of Tycho Brahe!
And now, placing both personal destinies side by side, think how endlessly instructive it is when we learn from the Akasha Chronicle that the individuality of Julian the Apostate appears again in Tycho Brahe, that Tycho Brahe is, so to say, a reincarnation of Julian the Apostate. Thus strangely and paradoxically does the law of reincarnation take effect when the karmic connections of the single individual are modified by world-historic karma; when the cosmic powers themselves use the human individuality as their instrument.
Let me expressly emphasize that I do not speak of such matters as the connection between Julian the Apostate and Tycho Brahe in order that they shall be proclaimed at once from the housetops and discussed at every dinner table and coffee table, but in order that they may sink into many a soul as the teaching of occult wisdom, and that we may learn to understand more and more how supersensible reality everywhere underlies the human being in his physical manifestation.