An Esoteric Cosmology
XVIII. The Apocalypse
14 June 1906, Paris
It has been said many times in the course of these lectures that Christianity marks the turning point of human evolution. All the religions have their raison d'etre and have been partial manifestations of the Logos, but none have changed the world so deeply as Christianity. — Those who ‘have not seen’ are those who have not known the Mysteries. Through Christianity, certain fundamental teachings of the ancient Mysteries — for instance those which dealt with morality, the immortality of the soul by Resurrection or the ‘second birth’ — were given to the whole world.
Before Christianity, super-sensible truth was revealed in the rites and dramatic ritual of the Mysteries. Since then, we have believed in it as it was revealed in the Divine Personality of Christ. But in every epoch there has been a difference between esoteric truth as known to the Initiates and its exoteric form which has been adapted to the multitude and expressed in the religions. The same applies to Christianity. What is written in the Gospels is the message, the good tidings announced to all the world. But there was a more profound teaching; it is contained in the Apocalypse in the form of symbols
There is a way of reading the Apocalypse which only now can be made public. But it was practised in the Middle Ages, in the occult schools of the Rosicrucians. They paid less attention to the historic aspect of the writing, the question of its author and all the problems which occupy the minds of modern theologians who only seek to discover the outer, historical circumstances. Theology today only knows the shell of the Apocalypse and has neglected its essence and core. The Rosicrucians were concerned with the prophetic utterances, with the eternal truths.
Occultism in general is not concerned with the history of a single evolutionary cycle or period but with the inner history of human evolution as a whole. True, occultism is at pains to discover the first manifestations of the life of our planetary system and the earlier stages of man's existence, but it looks forward through the millennia to a divine humanity, to a time when the Earth herself will have changed in substance and in form. Is it possible to predict the far distant future? It is indeed possible, because all that has finally to become physical in the future, already exists in germ, in archetypal form. The plan of evolution is contained in archetypal thought. Nothing comes into being in the physical world which in its broad lines has not been foreseen and prefigured in the devachanic world. Individual freedom and power of initiative depends upon the manner of the realisation of this truth.
Esoteric Christianity is not based upon vague and sentimental idealism, but upon a realisation born of a knowledge of the higher worlds. Such was the knowledge possessed by the author of the Apocalypse, the Seer of Patmos, who gave a picture of the future of humanity.
Let us try to envisage this future in the light of the cosmological principles which we have been studying in these lectures. Certain visions of the past and also of the future were revealed to the pupils in the Rosicrucian Schools and then, in order that they might interpret these visions, they were told to study the Apocalypse. We will proceed in the same way and consider how man has gradually become what he is today and what lies before him in the future. We have spoken of the ancient continent of Atlantis, and of the Atlanteans who had only a primitive consciousness of the ‘I’ towards the end of their period. The Post-Atlantean civilisations were as follows:
- Pre-Vedic civilisation in the south of Asia and in India — the beginning of Aryan culture.
- The epoch of Zoroaster, comprising the civilisation of ancient Persia.
- Egyptian civilisation (including the Chaldean and Semitic). The first germs of Christianity were laid down in this epoch among the Hebrew peoples.
- Graeco-Roman civilisation, the era of the birth of Christianity.
- A new epoch commenced at the time of the migrations of the peoples and of the invasions. The heritage of the Graeco-Roman civilisation was taken over by the races of the North: the Celts, the Germanic peoples and the Slavs. We ourselves are living in this epoch. It is a later transformation of the Graeco-Roman culture, brought about by the invigorating impulses of new races under the influence of Christianity mingled with the leaven of the East which was brought into Europe by the Arabs. The essential mission of this epoch of civilisation is to adapt man to the physical plane to develop reason and practical logic, to immerse intelligence in physical matter so that matter may be understood and finally mastered. In this hard and difficult task which is reaching its culminating point in our own day, man has temporarily forgotten the higher worlds whence he came. If we compare our intellectuality with that of the Chaldeans, for example, it is easy to see how much we have acquired and yet how much we have lost. When a Chaldean Magus looked at the sky — which for us simply presents problems of heavenly mechanics — his feelings were quite different from ours. Whereas modern astronomy is concerned with calculations and abstractions, the Magus of old Chaldea sensed the deep harmony of the heavens as that of a living and divine Being. When he looked at Mercury, Venus, Moon or Sun, he not only perceived the physical light of these celestial bodies; he perceived their souls and he knew that his own soul was in communion with these mighty souls of the heavens. Their forces of attraction or repulsion seemed to be a marvelous symphony of divine will; the music of the macrocosm sounded in his being. Thus the ‘Music of the Spheres’ was a reality uniting man to the heavens. The superiority of the scholar in our modern age lies in a knowledge of the physical world, of mineral matter. What was once spiritual knowledge has descended to the physical world, to the world we know so well. But from now onwards we must strive to reach a knowledge of the astral world and of the world of pure Spirit by true clairvoyance.
This descent into materialism was necessary in order that the fifth epoch might fulfil its mission. It was essential that astral and spiritual clairvoyance should grow dim in order that the intellect might develop by dint of precise, minute and mathematical observation of the physical world. Physical Science must be supplemented by Spiritual Science. Here is an example: Comparisons are often made between Ptolemy's chart of the heavens and that of Copernicus. It is said that Ptolemy's chart is erroneous. Now this in itself is not correct. Both are true from different points of view. Ptolemy's chart is concerned with the astral world where the Earth is seen in the centre of the planets, including the Sun. The map of the heavens given by Copernicus was prepared from the point of view of the physical world — the Sun is at the centre of the solar system. The significance of Ptolemy's system will be recognised again in ages to come.
Our fifth epoch will be followed by another, the sixth. This sixth epoch will see the development of brotherhood among men, clairvoyance and creative power. What will Christianity be in the sixth epoch? To the priest in the Mysteries before Christ, there was harmony between science and faith. Science and faith were one and the same. When he looked up to the heavens, the priest knew that the soul was a drop of water from the celestial ocean, led down to Earth by the great streams of life flowing through space. Now that the attention of men is wholly directed to the physical world, faith has need of a refuge, of religion. Hence the separation between science and faith. Faith in the Person of Christ, of the God-Man on Earth has temporarily replaced Occult Science and the Mysteries of antiquity. But in the sixth epoch, the two streams will again unite. Mechanical science will become spiritually creative. This will be Gnosis-spiritual consciousness. This sixth epoch which will be radically different from our own, will be preceded by mighty cataclysms. It will be as spiritual as ours has been material. But the transformation can only be brought about by physical catastrophes. The sixth epoch will prepare for a seventh epoch. This seventh epoch will be the end of the Post-Atlantean civilisations and conditions of earthly life will be entirely different from those we know. At the end of the seventh epoch there will be a revolution of the elements analogous to that which put an end to Atlantis, and the subsequent eras will know a spirituality prepared by the two preceding Post-Atlantean periods.
Thus there are seven great epochs of Aryan civilisation in which the laws of evolution slowly come to expression. At first, man has within him what he later sees around him. All that is actually around us now, passed out from us in a preceding epoch when our being was still mingled with the Earth, Moon and Sun. This cosmic being from whom the man of today and all the kingdoms of nature have issued, is referred to in the Cabala as Adam-Cadmon. Adam-Cadmon embraced all the manifold aspects of man as we know him today in the various races and peoples.
All that lives today in the inner being of man, his thoughts, his feelings, will find expression in the outer world and become his surroundings. The future lies within man. He is free to make it good or evil. Just as he has already left the animal kingdom behind him, so the evil in him today will form a race of degenerate beings. In our age man can to a certain extent hide the good or evil within him. But a time will come when he will no longer be able to do so, when the good and the evil will be written in indelible characters upon his countenance, upon his body, nay even upon the very face of the Earth.
Humanity will then divide into two races. Just as today we see rocks or animals, in that future age we shall encounter beings who are wholly evil, wholly ugly. In our time it is only the clairvoyant who is able to see moral goodness or moral ugliness in human beings. But when man's very features express his karma, human beings will divide into groups of themselves, according to the stream to which they manifestly belong, according to whether the lower nature has been conquered or whether it has conquered the Spirit. This differentiation is beginning to operate little by little. When we derive understanding of the future from the past, and strive to realise the ideal of this future, its plan begins to unfold before us. A new race will come into being to be the link between the man of the present and the spiritual man of the future.
It was taught in Manicheism that from our age onwards the souls of men would begin to transmute into good the evil which will manifest in full force in the sixth epoch. In other words: human souls must be strong enough to bring good out of evil by a process of spiritual alchemy.
When the Earth begins to recapitulate the previous phases of its evolution, there will first be a re-union with the Moon, and then of this Earth-Moon with the Sun. The re-union with the Moon will mark the culminating point of evil on the Earth; the re-union with the Sun will signify, on the other hand, the advent of happiness, the reign of the ‘elect.’ Man will bear the signs of the seven great phases of the Earth. The Book with the Seven Seals, spoken of in the Apocalypse, will be opened. The Woman clothed with the Sun who has the Moon under her feet, refers to the age when the Earth will once again be united with Sun and Moon. The Trumpets of Judgment will sound for the Earth will have passed into the Devachanic condition where the ruling principle is not light but sound. The hallmark of the end of earthly existence will be that the Christ-Principle permeates all humanity. Having become like unto Christ, men will gather around Him as the hosts around the Lamb, and the great harvest of evolution will constitute the new Jerusalem.