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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Esoteric Instructions
GA 270

Lesson XVI

28 June 1924, Dornach

My dear friends! Once again, we will begin by our allowing the word to sound forth, which may resound within the soul of each and every human being, given a proper understanding of the world, of the entirety of what is near and far in the cosmos. Before this word speaks to our souls, however, I really must say at least a few words, once again, to clarify the significance of this school, for once again gathered here today there are many new members of the esoteric school.

I will make my remarks today quite brief, but what must absolutely be included in this clarification, is that this school must be seen to be such, that it conveys its information out of the spiritual world and down to human souls, so that what lives here in the school, what is brought here in the school to human souls, is seen intrinsically as a communication from the spiritual world itself. In this context, one can see that membership in the school must be seen, in the highest degree, as something to be taken seriously.

Such gravity, which must be present throughout this school, has certainly only become possible through the constitution of the Anthroposophical Society since the Christmas Conference. Ever since the Christmas Conference, the Anthroposophical Society configured as such has been an entirely open institution, but at the same time an open institution through which flows an esoteric impulse. It is an esoteric impulse for the hearts of today, which is certainly more approachable and engaging than the more exoteric impulse that was present previously.

From members of the Anthroposophical Society as such, no more is required than that they feel themselves to be listeners to anthroposophical wisdom. Beyond that no more is demanded than would ordinarily be expected of every decent human being.

Membership in the School entails something more, however, for members of the school should accept the stipulations, the serious stipulations of the school. And the most basic stipulation is just this, that each member belonging to the school should comport himself or herself in life, so that on every side and in every circumstance he or she is a representative of anthroposophical matters before the world.

In being a representative of anthroposophical matters before the world, it is of course also necessary, that in regard to all that one does or wishes to do that is somehow related to anthroposophical matters, be it ever so distantly related, that one engaged in these things seek an interrelationship with the leadership of the school, meaning the esoteric Executive Council at the Goetheanum. And this, for all intents and purposes, will allow the school to assume a real leadership role in the Anthroposophical Movement, represented as it is today by the Anthroposophical Society.

And so even now, it is necessary that membership in the school should come to be so regarded, that those affiliated with the school will take up Anthroposophy with their whole human nature, with their whole being, and with the feeling that they themselves are linked limbs of the real stream that will flow forth from the Goetheanum. As this is fulfilled and put in place, my dear friends, it cannot be seen as a curtailment of one’s human freedom in any way, for membership in the school is based on reciprocity. Within the school the leadership must have the freedom to do what they are appointed to do, to do what they hold to be the right things to do. And just as one need not be a member of the school, or become a member of the school, without freedom, and must remain thoroughly free, just so must the leadership of the school be able to remain in place in freedom, without anyone being able to say anything to the contrary, so that their free will is not compromised in any way. It is a covenant of freedom between the leadership and those who will be members.

In order, on the other hand, to be truly in earnest in maintaining the earnest nature of the school, and it simply and at least cannot be otherwise, the leadership of the school should take up and maintain their right to revoke someone’s membership, for whatever reason they hold to be necessary. And as testament to the strength with which the leadership has taken this on, my dear friends, is the fact that in the comparatively brief existence of the school sixteen members of the school as a whole have been suspended for some time, sometimes briefly and sometimes for a longer period of time. And I must emphasize once again, this measure must be, certainly as we in plunge ever deeper and deeper into esoterica, this measure must remain uncompromisingly strong in the future, regardless of whomever the personalities are who are so affected.


And now let the word be spoken, the word that should always be spoken admonishingly at the outset of this our engaging esoteric discussion, the admonition that sounds forth to human beings from all the events and things of the world and from all the beings of the world, held in one’s heart, in order to understand it, the admonishing call to self-awareness, which is the true foundation of world-awareness:

O Man, know yourself!
So sounds the word of worlds.
You hear it soul-forcefully,
You feel it spirit-powerfully.
Who speaks so world-mightily?
Who speaks so heart-inwardly?
Does it work streaming through space
Into your sense’s self-experiencing?
Does it sound weaving through time
Into your life's evolving stream?
Are you the one, who yourself
In sensing space, in experiencing time
Creates the word, feeling yourself
Estranged in in space’s soul-emptiness,
As you lose the power of thinking
In time’s destroying stream?

My dear friends, we have been imbued with what should come to us from the spiritual world as mantric verses, up through to those mantric verses in which we feel about within the esoteric situation. This esoteric situation certainly involves representing to ourselves in meditating, how at first the being standing there at the abyss of existence speaks to us.

Therefore, picture it once again, for we cannot call this up before our souls often enough. A person sees all around himself, immediately around about himself in earthly existence, the realms of nature. He looks about at the sublime stars. He sees the clouds in motion. He sees all that is around about him in wind, weather, lightning and thunder. He sees all from the lowliest worm up to the most sublime display of the twinkling starry heavens. Only a false asceticism, which is not a part of genuine esotericism, can somehow disdain what belongs to the sensory world. Any person who has the will to be a proper human being cannot do otherwise than take it all in, in the most intimate manner, all reality that is sensed and made sense of, from the lowliest worm to the majestic, awe-inspiring, twinkling stars.

Then in solitude the moment comes, in which deep in his innermost soul a person can grasp, the moment in which he must say to himself, “All that you see around you is grand, vast, beautiful, sublime, and magnificent. You should not disdain it. You should appreciate it. Step by step you should march forward through the world, in order to be able to see ever more and more what your eyes alight upon, what your ears resound with, what the other senses discern, what you can grasp with your sense of reason. But while you look around near and far, and within the marching movement of time, in spite of all the grandeur, beauty, and sublimity in your surroundings, in this territory is not to be found just what the innermost nature of your own existence itself is.” And you will have to say to yourself, “The innermost source of your own existence is to be sought elsewhere.” That is the power that can be take hold of us in such a thought!

That which then proceeds for the soul can only be portrayed in imaginative conceptions. These imaginative conceptions initially lead us as if to a broad field, in which is spread out all the things of earth, sensory-material things. We find it to be drenched in sun, we find it brightly illuminated, but as we look all around nowhere do we find the essence of our own being. Then we look around more carefully. And bordering on this sun-drenched field, in which for the senses all is beautiful and grand and sublime, in which we ourselves are not, but bordering on this is a dark, night-bedecked wall. We have a sense that within the darkness there is the possibility of light being shed on the source of our true being, but we cannot gaze within.

And in that we are following the path this far, the abyss of existence appears before us. This is the threshold to the spiritual world. We still have to cross over this abyss. There stands the Guardian, who warns us that we must be prepared, in order to cross over the abyss. For with our customary habits, our customary ways of thinking, feeling, and willing in the physical-sensory world, we will not cross over this abyss of existence into the true spiritual world, in which our true essential being primarily stands.

The very first spirit form that we encounter there is the Guardian of the Threshold. Every night when we sleep, we are within this spiritual world. But a sort of darkness surrounds us in our essential “I am” nature and in our astral body, for we can enter into this spiritual world only when ready. The Guardian of the Threshold warns us about entering unprepared. Now however, as we approach him, he sends us his great admonitions. And these admonitions confront us in the mantric verses that have formed the content of these esoteric lessons up to now.

Those who do not yet have these mantric verses can most certainly obtain them from other members of the school. To obtain them with the proper decorum, however, it must be kept in mind that not the one receiving them, but rather the one giving them must ask if they can be given.

These verses have not only shown us that we should involve our heart when we wish to cross over the abyss of existence, they have also already shown us, as we ourselves find out for ourselves in our condition of soul, once we have flown over the abyss and are gradually starting to sense about, not yet gazing, but just sensing about, that the darkness, that initially confronted us night-bedecked, that this darkness gradually clears. Initially one feels that it clears, and one feels that the elements, the earthen, the watery, the aeriform, and the fiery, become something else over there, that we are living in another world. And this world, in which we will come to know our own essential being, and thereby the true form of the elements, is quite another world.

The last time, through the meditation parading before our souls, we formed the conception of the Guardian standing at the abyss of existence and of ourselves already across and on the other side of the abyss, just feeling, not yet seeing, and that the darkness was lightening. There the Guardian speaks to us, after he previously of course clarified for us just how we should comport ourselves in regard to the elements. The Guardian speaks to us about how the elements have now changed for us. He puts forth questions to us.

Who answers? The hierarchies themselves answer these questions, from one aspect the Third Hierarchy, the Angels, Archangels, and Archai, from the next aspect the Second Hierarchy, and from the third aspect the First Hierarchy.

The Third Hierarchy, the Angels, Archangels, and Archai, answers when the Guardian of the Threshold asks us, “What becomes of earth’s firmness?” The Second Hierarchy, the Exusiai, Dynamis, and Kyriotetes, answers when the Guardian of the Threshold asks us, “What becomes of water’s forming force,” the formative force that works in us and really gives us our inner organization. And the First Hierarchy, the Thrones, Cherubim, and Seraphim, answers when the Guardian of the Threshold asks us what becomes of our breath, of the air’s quickening power, which really wakes us from dim plant-like existence-awareness into a consciousness of existence filled with feeling and empathy.

And such mantric verses certainly possess the wherewithal to permeate our soul, our heart, so that we feel drawn into the whole situation. The Guardian of the Threshold puts each searching, admonishing question to us. The hierarchies answer.

Guardian: What becomes of earth’s firmness, that supported you?
Angels: Sense, as we sense in your thinking.
Archangels: Experience, as we experience in your feeling.
Archai: Behold, as we behold in your willing.

Guardian: What becomes of water’s forming force, that permeated you?
Exusiai: Know spirit-world-construction in human-body-construction.
Dynamis: Feel spirit-world-life in human-body-life.
Kyriotetes: Will spirit-world-process in human-body-existence.

Guardian: What becomes of air’s stimulation, that waked you?
Thrones: Grasp inner existence knowingly in your god’s-world-existence.
Cherubim: Warm yourself on inner life in your god’s-world-life.
Seraphim: Wake inner light in yourself in your god’s-world-light.

That, my dear brothers and sisters, it the warning word emerging from the company of the Guardian of the Threshold with the Hierarchies, that brings our souls gradually further and ever further along, when we experience them in the right way ever and ever again.

The manner of proceeding, which must be the case for people today and for people in the future, and has been described in the holy mysteries of old, is for the student to say he was guided into the essential nature of the elements of earth, water, and air.

But all-pervasive warmth, which is also an element, is within the earth element, supporting us personally with its firmness, and within the water element, forming us personally, contouring our organs, bringing them into existence, into motion and into growth. Warmth lives within this water element. Warmth also lives within the air element, through which once upon a time the spirit of Yahweh blew into humanity its being of soul, and through which even today a person awakens his soul-being out of dull plant-like existence. Warmth lives within this aeriform element. Warmth lives all around and within all. We must become acquainted with it as the all-pervasive element. As the all-pervasive element, we must dive into it. We certainly feel ourselves to be very, very close to it.

We feel remote from the fixed element in earth, even though we sense its support in the earth. Even from the watery element we feel remote. The aeriform element, however, presses into us in intimate coexistence. Sometimes the aeriform element is not quite in harmony with us, as when we have too much, or too little air, when this shows just how inwardly our life is connected with the aeriform element. Having too much air evokes fear and anxiety. Having too little air makes one faint. We are certainly deeply touched by the element of air.

We feel, though, that our most intimate uniting is with the warmth element. Whether warmth or cold is in us, it is we ourselves who are warm or cold. In order to live, we must produce a certain degree of warmth within ourselves. We remain intimately close to the warmth element. In order to approach it even more closely, not just one hierarchy must speak, but the admonishing words of the different hierarchies must sound forth together.

To this end the Guardian of the Threshold also addresses words of warning, a question, to warn us about the element of warmth. The answer emerges from the world-all, from the cosmos, but is now something quite different. The Guardian of the Threshold puts his question:

What becomes of fire’s cleansing,1Des Feuers Reinigung that inflamed for you the I?

We are already familiar with the form of the question. Now the question concerns our being guided into the element of warmth, or fire.

Not just one Hierarchy answers, or one group of beings within a Hierarchy, but rather what answers is a chorus of Angels, Exusiai, and Thrones. Seconding this, a chorus of Archangels, Dynamis, and Cherubim answer the question. Thirdly, the Archai, Kyriotetes, and Seraphim answer. In this way the three answers ring forth from choir-groups of the three hierarchies speaking together, concerning the generalities of the element of warmth.

We must so form this as a conception, while we are pondering the admonishing question of the Guardian of the Threshold concerning the warmth element, so that at this moment sounding forth from our “I” answers emerge, but answers inspired by the hierarchies, and so the answers sound forth admonishingly. As if from all sides the Angels, Exusiai, and Thrones speak forth first. Secondly the Archangels, Dynamis, and Cherubim speak. Thirdly the Archai, Kyriotetes, and Seraphim speak. Always all three Hierarchies speak, always an ordered group from the three Hierarchies speaks. And this confronts us cosmically in conjunction with the question.

The Guardian speaks:
What becomes of fire’s cleansing, that inflamed for you the I?

The Angels, Exusiai, Thrones:
Wake2erwecke: The prefix er- in erwecke makes it an inner waking (inspiration, excitement, arousal), Wecken is transitive, to wake someone or something (wachen, to awaken, is intransitive and is not used here). in world’s etheric reaches the life-flaming-script.

All three Hierarchies admonish us to think about how all that approaches us during life on earth is carried over in the world ether, and we see it carried over in the world ether when we have gone through the portal of death. Standing there in the spiritual world, after we have crossed over through the portal of death, we look back on our life on earth, but also look out on the wide etheric reaches, where is inscribed what we have accomplished by thinking, feeling, and doing during life on earth. It is a unity, the flaming script of your life.

The Archangels, Dynamis, and Cherubim, answering within us:
Establish3erschaffe: The prefix er- in erschaffe makes it more than just schaffe (make, create, bring forth). in time’s circling waves the soul-atoning-forces.

Here we are made mindful of the second stage which we undergo when we have passed through the portal of death. There we experience backwardly, in mirror-images, that is to say, in its just atonement, in making amends, in becoming one with world-all again, all that we have accomplished here in life. If we behaved toward a person in some manner, we then experience backwards in the time-stream what the other experienced through us. And just so, as I have delineated, do the Archangels, Dynamis, and Cherubim inform us in warning about just what this second stage is that we experience between death and a new birth.

But at just what happens in working out the details of our karma in the third stage, at just what happens as we are working together as souls with other human souls and with the beings of the higher Hierarchies, about this we are advised, in warning, by:

The Archai or primal powers, by the Kyriotetes, and by the Seraphim:
Invoke4erbitte: The prefix er- in erbitte makes it more than just bitte (ask, pray, entreat, implore). in eternal being’s deeds the spirit-savior-powers.

We must allow ourselves to be drawn into the situation so as to feel the Guardian of the Threshold speaking, his earnest bearing reaching out to us, admonishing us, and out of the far reaches of the world, ringing out and over us, our hearts embrace what unites us with the mysteries of life. [The fourth part of the mantra was now written on the board.]

The Guardian speaks:
What becomes of fire’s cleansing, that inflamed for you the I?

Angels, Exusiai, Thrones:
Wake in world’s etheric reaches the life-flaming-script.

Archangels, Dynamis, Cherubim:
Establish in time’s circling waves the soul-atonement-forces.

Archai, Kyriotetes, Seraphim
Invoke in eternal being’s deeds the spirit-redeemer-powers.

What stands before us is a black, night-bedecked darkness, since for the eyes of soul it is not yet suffused with light. But we have the feeling, as we remain standing there in this black, night-bedecked darkness, that as we are feeling about, that everywhere we feel the beginnings of glimmerings of light. And we find that we are able to maintain an awareness of it, of this glimmering light that we can only feel. We feel our way toward the Guardian of the Threshold. Of course, we really only beheld him so long as we were over there in the sensory world. Then we stepped initially into darkness and heard his admonishing, questioning word.

But this admonishing, questioning word has led us along, so that now we feel a bit of the moving, working light, the gentle, moving, working light. Seeking help in the moving, working light we turn to the Guardian of the Threshold. And it is a singular experience. Not yet light, although the illumination allows itself to be felt. In this felt illumination the Guardian of the Threshold reveals himself, as if now he would be more intimate with us, as if here he would approach us more closely, as if we would also approach closer to him.

And what he says from this point on works extremely effectively, as it might work on you in life if someone were to whisper something in your ear in confidence. Continuing on, what initially resounded meaningfully as an admonishing earnest word from the Guardian of the Threshold, trumpeted, mighty, majestic, from all sides out of the cosmos, and impinging on our hearts, as it continues on it becomes an intimate conversation in moving-working light with the Guardian of the Threshold, for now it is no longer as if he were speaking to us, but rather as if he were whispering.

Has your spirit understood?

And our inner being is warmed by this confidential communication of the Guardian of the Threshold, by his saying, “Has your spirit understood?” Our inner being is warmed. It experiences itself in the warmth. And it feels itself driven, impelled, this inner being to answer. Devoutly it answers, and so we envision it in meditation, devoutly it answers, calm, unassuming:

The world-spirit in me
Held his breath
And its presence
May illuminate my I.

Our “I” answers the question, “Has your spirit understood.” The answer is neither haughty nor expectant. The answer is not “I have understood,” but rather, the “I” feels that divine existence penetrates into the innermost aspect of human nature, divine breath in man it is, that peacefully abides and prepares the way for understanding. [The first stanza of the new mantra was now written on the board.]

The Guardian:
Has your spirit understood?

“I”:
The world-spirit in me
Held his breath
And its presence
May illuminate my I.

And seconding this, the Guardian asks, confidentially:

Has your soul accepted?

The “I” answers:

The world-souls in me
Lived convened in stars
And their harmonies
May soundly form my I

Again, it is not some sort of haughty answer that the “I” feels building, when the Guardian asks, “Has your soul accepted,” but rather the soul is aware that there are divine souls speaking within, the souls of the beings of the higher Hierarchies, and that in what is said lives not merely an individual, but rather an entire council, an advisory assembly, such as when the coursing stars of a planetary system reciprocate in sending out their forces of illumination. In this manner the world souls send out the council’s conclusions. They are taken up by the soul innately. And out of the harmonies the soul hopes that the “I” will become sound, so that in a fashion appropriate for human beings the becoming I is an echo of world-harmonies. As in the wandering planets of the solar system, the world-souls in the world-spirit-forum deliberate together in harmony, and the harmony of this concurrence sounds on into the human soul.[The second stanza was now written on the board.]

The Guardian:
Has your soul accepted?

“I”:
The world-souls in me
Lived convened in stars
And their harmonies
May soundly form5schaffen my I.

And the third confidential question that the Guardian directs to human beings in this situation, is this:

Has your body experienced?

The soul feels that world-forces live in this body, as everywhere else, concentrated in a point in space. But now these universal powers do not appear as physical powers. The soul has finally become aware that those powers that appear externally as functioning, physical powers, as gravity, electricity, magnetism, heat, and light, that these powers, when appearing in human bodies, are moral powers, transformed powers of the will. The soul perceives the world-forces as the eternal powers of world-justice, constituted throughout the happenstances of earthly life. The soul perceives them as rectifying powers, rectifying powers that in their words of truth weave the threads of karma, and thereby the true essential “I”.

When the Guardian of the Threshold asks confidentially,

Has your body experienced,

then the person feels impelled to answer, full of humility, although fully in accord with world-justice:

The world-forces in me
Rectify6richten human deeds
And their words of truth
May guide for me the I. [The third stanza was now written on the board.]

The Guardian:
Has your body experienced?
“I”: The world-forces in me
Rectify human deeds
And their words of truth
May guide7lenken for me the I.

In this manner the soul becomes, after having experienced, together with the Guardian of the Threshold and the Hierarchies, the transformation, the metamorphosis of the universal elements, in this manner the soul becomes inwardly devoted to these three questions of the Guardian, the soul becomes interwoven with the particular spiritual beings who have poured themselves out in response, and the soul in turn comes a little further along in response to the enigmatic word, “O Man, know yourself!”

And now just today let us put side by side the opening word with what we come upon in feeling the warmth-element. The warmth element itself approaches us in a reverent voice concerning the spiritual content of the cosmos, and then we feel how much further we have progressed in following the great admonition, “O Man, know yourself!” We will see how we as human beings remain in the middle between this resounding call, from all events and all universal beings, between this call and the mantric verse parading directly in front of our souls by means of today’s lesson.

O Man, know yourself!
So sounds the word of worlds.

You hear it soul-forcefully,
You feel it spirit-powerfully.

Who speaks so world-mightily?
Who speaks so heart-inwardly?

Does it work streaming through space
Into your sense’s self-experiencing?

Does it sound weaving through time
Into your life's evolving stream?

Are you the one, who yourself
In sensing space, in experiencing time
Creates the word, feeling yourself
Estranged in in space’s soul-emptiness,
As you lose the power of thinking
In time’s destroying stream?


What becomes of fire’s cleansing, that inflamed for you the I?
Wake in world’s etheric reaches the life-flaming script.
Establish in time’s circling waves the soul-atonement-forces.
Invoke in eternal being’s deeds the spirit-redeemer-powers.

Has your spirit understood?
The world-spirit in me
Held his breath
And its presence
May illuminate my I.

Has your soul accepted?
The world-souls in me
Lived convened in stars
And their harmonies
May soundly form my I.

Has your body experienced?
The world-forces in me
Rectify human deeds
And their words of truth
May guide for me the I.

Blackboard (left side)
Blackboard (left side)
Blackboard (right side)
Blackboard (right side)
Blackboard Text for the Sixteenth Lesson

Der Hüter spricht:
Was wird aus des Feuers Reinigung, die dir das Ich entflammte?
Angeloi, Exusiai, Thrones:
Erwecke dir in Weltenätherweiten die Lebensflammenschrift.
Archangeloi, Dynamis, Cherubim:
Erschaffe dir in Zeitenwellenkreisen die Seelensühnekräfte.
Archai, Kyriotetes, Seraphim:
Erbitte dir in ew’gen Wesentaten die Geisterlösermächte.

Der Huter:
Hat verstanden dein Geist?

Ich:Der Weltengeist in mir
Er hielt den Atem an
Und seine Gegenwart
Mög’erleuchten mein Ich.

Der Huter:
Hat begriffen deine Seele?

Ich:
Die Weltenseelen in mir
Sie lebten im Sternenrat
Und ihre Harmonien
Mögen klingend schaffen mein Ich.

Der Huter:
Hat erlebt dein Leib?

Ich:
Die Weltenkräfte in mir
Sie richten Menschentaten
Und ihre Wahrspruchworte
Mögen lenken mir das Ich.

The Guardian speaks:
What becomes of fire’s cleansing, that inflamed for you the I?
Angels, Exusiai, Thrones:
Wake in world’s etheric reaches the life-flaming-script.
Archangels, Dynamis, Cherubim:
Establish in time’s circling waves the soul-atoning-forces.
Archai, Kyriotetes, Seraphim:
Invoke in eternal being’s deeds the spirit-savior-powers.

The Guardian:
Has your spirit understood?

“I”:
The world-spirit in me
Held his breath
And its presence
May illuminate my I.

The Guardian:
Has your soul accepted?

“I”:
The world-souls in me
Lived convened in stars
And their harmonies
May soundly form my I.

The Guardian:
Has your body experienced?

“I”:
The world-forces in me
Rectify human deeds
And their words of truth
May guide for me the I.