31 December 1910, Stuttgart
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 realise 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 realise 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 realise 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, super-sensible 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 civilisation-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 civilisation 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. 26See Rudolf Steiner, The Spiritual Guidance of Man and of Mankind. Lectures II and III. 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 civilisation 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 towards the light side of the Zodiac traversed by the sun by day; the other six towards 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 27See Rudolf Steiner, Turning-Points in Spiritual History. Lecture I. (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 civilisation.
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 to-day. 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 to-day 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 emphasised that these streams are to be regarded to-day 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 to-day, to observe these twelve streams.
To be sure, they will not look quite the Same as once they appeared when seen an 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” an Mars. It is there a matter of certain streams of force which correspond to an earlier stage of the earth 28See Rudolf Steiner, Spiritual Hierarchies. Lecture 8. “Mars is a repetition of the ancient Moon and stands in the Same orbit to which the ancient Moon extended. ...” See also, Arenson's Index to Rudolf Steiner's Lecture-Courses, Vol. II, p. 181: “The Mars of to-day arose when the Earth was repeating the ancient Moon existence. What separated off and remained behind at this stage of repetition is the Mars of to-day.” 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. 29See Rudolf Steiner, The Whitsuntide Festival: its place in the study of Karma. (Lecture given at Dornach, 4th June, 1924.) “ ... The physical science of to-day looks to find also in the Universe everything which is on the Earth. But the physical organisation is not there in the Universe at all. Man begins with his physical organisation: then he has the etheric and the astral. The Universe an the other hand begins with the Etheric. Out there in the Cosmos the Physical is nowhere to be found. The Physical is only on the Earth and it is but empty fancy and imagination to speak of anything physical in the far Universe. ...”
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 epitomises 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 civilisation; 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 civilisation, there followed that remarkable Greco-Latin civilisation 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 on to 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 recognise 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 towards 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 turn 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 to-day. 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 neighbouring 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 neighbouring 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 neighbouring 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 emphasise 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 revolutionise 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 an 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 cognisant 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 he 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. 30See Rudolf Steiner, The Spiritual Guidance of Man and of Mankind. Lecture II. It fell in a period that can be characterised 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 upwards 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 to-day. 31See Rudolf Steiner, The Redemption of Thinking: a Study in the Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas. With an Introduction, Epilogue and Appendices by A. P. Shepherd and Mildred Robertson Nicoll. (Hodder and Stoughton, 1956.) 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 an 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 towards external learning, he entitled his work, with epoch-making humility, Docta Ignorantia, “Learned Ignorante.” 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) 32See Rudolf Steiner, The Life between Death and Rebirth in relation to Cosmic Facts. Lecture 5. 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 towards 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 an in there 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 analyse, 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. 33See Rudolf Steiner,
The Portal of Initiation, Scene I. Four Mystery Plays, Vol. I,
p. 28. The following is the English version of words spoken by Theodora,
“... Once, long ago, Christ lived upon the earth,
And from this life ensured the consequence
That in soul-substance clad He hovers o'er
The evolution of Humanity,
In union with the earth's own spirit-sphere;
And though as yet invisible to men,
When in such form He manifests Himself,
Since now their being Lacks that spirit-sight
Which first will show itself in future times;
Yet even now this future draweth nigh
When that new sight shall come to men an earth.
What once the senses saw, when Christ did live
Upon the earth: this shall be seen by souls
When soon the time shall reach its fullness due.”
See also, Rudolf Steiner, The Vision of Christ's Advent in the Etheric 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 there 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 specialisation 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 an 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 an 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 an 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 civilisation, 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. 34Johann Freidrich Oberlin. Protestant priest in Steinthal. 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 an 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. 35Oberlin. A novel by Fritz Lienhard. (Stuttgart, 84th ed., 1920.) 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 round 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.