Reading the Pictures of the Apocalypse
Kristiania, May 11, 1909
We have seen that the writer of the Apocalypse intended the seven letters in the first chapters of the Apocalypse as messages for the seven representatives of the seven cultural epochs of the post-Atlantean age; that is, the age that followed the great water catastrophe also known as the Flood. The age that will come after the seven post-Atlantean epochs reveals itself to the initiate in seven seals as the seven epochs like those of our post-Atlantean age.
We must realize that the soul development of humankind in the future still has many and manifold changes to go through. The more we imagine ourselves back into the state of consciousness in the ancient past when the human being's feeling for self was just a dim dawning, the more we also find a dim clairvoyance; the further back we go the less people appear as individuals. If we go far back into Atlantean times we no longer see people as individual beings but rather united with one another into group souls. But even in historical times, in the last centuries before Christ, we still find group souls. At that time the people in middle Europe felt themselves to be members of an organism, members of a tribe. Tacitus tells us how the individual Cheruscans experienced themselves, not as individuals, but as members of the tribal I. 1Publius Cornelius Tacitus (ca. 55 – 120 A.D.), the Roman historian, in his book “De origin et situ Germanorum,” generally known as “Germania.”
We find in early Atlantean times that human beings over wide, wide geographical regions were very similar in appearance. They broke down into groups of striking similarity. In the middle of the Atlantean age humankind still fell into four main groups. In the first stages of Atlantean development the members of the individual groups still resembled one another in a very pronounced way: only the groups were sharply distinguished. The clairvoyant today can see very little of what constituted the physical body at that time. It was still completely made up of a very soft material, much like certain fish in the ocean today that can barely be distinguished from the rest of the water. The air then was entirely permeated by the watery element and the human physical body was still very difficult to distinguish from the watery element surrounding it. However, the bones and nervous system were also already present as forces at that time. The human being only became a real earthly human being through a process of hardening.
If we wish to characterize the various human beings, borrowing, as it were, present-day images, then we can consider first those who had developed and condensed their physical nature the most. The occultist refers to them as the bull people. The people whose etheric body was developed the most, the aggressive people, the powerful ones, were called the lion people. A third group had an astral body that strongly ruled over the other members; that is the group referred to as actual human beings. Then there were the people who could be called the eagles, who had already developed a strong I. In this way they ruled over the others. We can speak of these four group souls, and a clairvoyant perceives them by looking back into those ancient times.
These four groups of people were characterized by whatever aspect had been most formed in them on the earth below. The bull people at that time had developed their digestive system the most; the lion people their heart and blood circulation ... [gap in the manuscript]. The clairvoyant can see four such group souls. That is what appears with initiation in the astral world. What then presents itself to the clairvoyant can be compared approximately with what those four animals are today. One who sees the evolution of humankind today with the view of an occultist sees this picture of the four human groups symbolized in these four animals.
The war of all against all will be an expression of the egotism that is always growing stronger, the egotism conjured forth by humanity today as the I is and will always become, stronger and stronger. That will be the end of the last post-Atlantean culture. This catastrophe will also have its mission, its usefulness in the ascent of the entire human race. However, the great war of all against all will be something much worse than war of the present-day with weapons. It will be a war of souls, of souls who no longer understand one another, a war of the classes. This future catastrophe is difficult for present-day consciousness to understand.
The Atlanteans were magicians. As we today use the powers asleep in coal, so the Atlantean used the forces in plant seeds. The forces in the seeds served them in their technology, in their industry.
There is a mysterious connection between these forces. As long as the Atlanteans used the seed forces properly, they were in harmony with the working of the forces of the air and water. However, from the middle of the Atlantean age onward, the Atlantean magicians increasingly approached their moral fall; and in the mysteries of the black occult schools these magical forces were misused in a terrible way. They were placed in the service of the most horrible egotism. In this way the powers of air and water were increasingly excited which finally had to result in the mighty Atlantean water catastrophe. Today, those who know the secret of the use of these forces know full well that the use of such forces in our time means that powers of black magic are at work. Magic must never be made to serve when selfish purposes are involved. Hence, the employment of seed forces is not permitted today even to serve white magic. On the other hand, in Lemurian times the seed forces of the animals were used. But everywhere that the growth forces of animals are misused, horrendous forces of fire, the vulcanic element, are awakened.
Today these things are not so obvious. Today the feeling for one's self, the overwhelming egohood of people has brought about the drying up, the desolation of those regions of the earth that have developed this egotism to the greatest extent. It is absolutely true that this war of all against all is being prepared on the surface of the earth because a connection exists between the egotistical withering of the soul's forces and the paralyzation of the earth's productive powers. The Nordic myth of the Twilight of the Gods also tells us this.
We must understand the difference between the evolution of souls and the evolution of bodies. From epoch to epoch human souls find themselves again and again in different bodies. These souls will one day see the strife that will reign among the human souls who will be born in the last post-Atlantean age. This experience will be a lesson for them and will help to free them from egotism. Then they will be able to grow into an era where they will have the fruits of selfhood but without its disadvantages. An age will come with clairvoyant conditions similar to those prevailing in ancient Atlantis, but with this difference: human beings will have a free consciousness of self. We will then have learned, in these seven cultures of the post-Atlantean age, what can be achieved in the physical world. This self-perception or consciousness of self can only awaken in a physical body; but the human being must again subjugate the physical body. After the war of all against all, we will have achieved a stage of evolution where we live in a bodily nature in such a way that we are no longer slaves of our physical bodies.
The impulse for this development comes from the Christ principle. Christ even falls right in the middle between the age of the Atlantean catastrophe and the war of all against all. On the one hand we can thank the descent into matter for our consciousness of self within our physical bodily nature. On the other hand, we thank the Christ event for our ability to ascend with the achievements of the physical world. We thank the Christ principle for our ability to ascend to universal brotherly love, to the universal love of humanity, since we will again unite in groups with love for one another.
If we look back to the time of the original group souls of Atlantis and then into the future we see these four group souls appearing again. The lamb will stand in the middle as a sign for the love that will unite people who will then be living in a bodily nature that is less dense.
But this state must be prepared today through the setting aside of a small group that will carry brotherly love into the future. Therefore, a stream has arisen in our time that will lead to brotherly love through real spiritual knowledge. Humankind will not attain brotherly love through preaching but rather through knowledge. Preachers who constantly speak of love achieve nothing. But if people are given wisdom, knowledge of evolution, in such a way that it becomes life in the soul, then humanity will arrive at love. The soul can attain this when it is warmed by wisdom. Then it can radiate love.
For this reason the masters of wisdom and harmony of feelings have formed this stream for the raying forth of love into humanity and for the influx of wisdom into humanity. Humankind, rushing toward the war of all against all, will then find the fruit of the theosophical movement in an understanding of peace — while all around it, the nature of humankind will have everywhere led into strife those who have not heard the call of the master of wisdom and harmony of feelings on the basis of the Christ impulse in the fourth age.
Let us look back again to the first epoch of our culture, to the holy Rishis who pointed to the Vishva Karman, whom, as clairvoyants, they saw by means of the etheric bodies of the Atlantean initiates they carried within them. The writer of the Apocalypse directed his spiritual gaze toward him and saw how he holds the seven star oracles, through the seven Rishis, in his hand. These holy, simple men wanted to awaken the spiritual senses of humanity by saying to human beings that the world surrounding them is just maya or illusion. Only the spirit standing behind the surrounding world could be called truth. The seven holy Rishis pointed to this spirit. Human beings had to descend into physical life; but in order to preserve them from a descent into matter that would be too deep. they first had to absorb the teaching concerning maya or illusion. The souls that are now living in our bodies have also lived in Indian bodies, and at that time learned to see matter as an illusion. But all around there were the souls of many human beings who were locked in the fetters of matter. For those souls incarnated again today it means that they are theoretical materialists. Among materialists those are the least harmful, for their materialistic thoughts will be driven out of them in the future when the earth will become devastated and only the soul will remain alive, the soul that they no longer believe in today.
What is even worse is practical materialism. But this form of materialism was even more dangerous in ancient times because the memory of magic powers was still present; then this materialism always led to the practice of black magic. Therefore, at that time this materialism always signified the fall into the decadence of black magic. The writer of the Apocalypse always spoke of these people as Nicolaitans who have lost the first, the glorious love of the spirit. Therefore, when he wanted to praise he said that the Nicolaitans were hated.
We find the least amount of black magic in the ancient Indian culture. We find the greatest misuse in Egypt because the lofty teachings of Hermes went over into the art of black magic. Balaam is intended as a black magician. The writer of the Apocalypse directs his admonishment to the community in Pergamon in the verse: “But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teachings of Balaam.” (Rev. 2:14) Common immorality is not meant here but rather the development of the powers in matter, black magic.
In the occult schools of the first age after Christ the Apocalypse was a favored book. The ancient mysteries founded the primal wisdom, the wisdom of the Atlanteans. The Christian mysteries, on the other hand, strive to direct their view to the future. They did this not only in order to know but also in order to stimulate their wills so that, with this spiritual treasure, humanity could pass through increasingly higher incarnations.