Reading the Pictures of the Apocalypse
Kristiania, May 16, 1909
Today we will consider a more occult side of yesterday's observations. The first four post-Atlantean cultures had the task of reflecting in human souls the great cosmic processes that had taken place in the course of time. In our cultural period, on the other hand, from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries onward, we no longer incorporate such a reflection. For what takes place externally in the evolution of humankind can be traced back to deeper causes.
We know that the etheric bodies of the great Atlantean initiates were preserved for the seven holy Rishis; we also know that the etheric body and astral body of Zarathustra were woven into Moses and Hermes. The possibility has always existed for etheric bodies, which have been transformed and prepared by initiates, to be used further in the spiritual economy of the world. 1Compare the lectures found in The Principle of Spiritual Economy (GA 109) (Fludson, N.Y.: Anthroposophic Press, 1986). Other things have also happened. Special etheric bodies are formed in higher worlds for especially important individuals. When someone was essential for a special mission to humanity, such a special etheric body or astral body was woven in higher worlds and then imprinted into him or her.
This is what happened to Sem, who actually had something to do with the entire tribe of the Semites. A special etheric body was formed for such a progenitor of a tribe. Because of this Sem was a kind of double personality. As incredible as it may sound to modern thinking, to a clairvoyant a personality such as Sem appeared, with his aura, like an ordinary man whose etheric body was filled by a higher being reaching down from higher worlds. In this way the man's aura became a mediator between his personality and higher worlds. When dwelling in a human being such a divine being has a very special power. He can reproduce a particular etheric body, and these reproduced etheric bodies then form a fabric that is again and again woven into the descendants. In this way the descendants of Sem were endowed with copies of his etheric body. But the etheric body of Sem himself, not only the reproduced copies, was also preserved in the mysteries. Then, any special individual who had been assigned a special mission had to use this etheric body in order to make himself understood to the Semitic people, just as highly educated Europeans would have to learn the language of the Hottentots in order to make themselves understood to them. The individuals given a special mission therefore had to carry within them the real etheric body of Sem in order to make themselves understood to the Semitic people. An example of such a personality would be Melchizedek, 2Melchizedek: Compare, among others, the lecture of September 4, 1910 in The Gospel of St. Matthew (GA 123) (Hudson, N.Y.: Anthroposophic Press, 1965). who could only show himself to Abraham in the etheric body of Sem.
We must now ask ourselves the question: If only now, in the fifth post-Atlantean cultural epoch, an understanding for Christianity can be developed, then what was the understanding in the rest of the Greek and Latin age that lasted until the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries?
There is a mysterious occult process taking place here. Christ lived, of course, for only three years in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was such a highly developed individuality that he could leave the physical world in the thirtieth year of his life in order to enter the spiritual world just as the dove appeared over his head. The three highly developed bodies, physical, etheric, and astral, left behind by Jesus were then filled by the individuality of Christ through the fact that he lived in the physical human body. These bodies of Jesus of Nazareth, invisible to the physical eye, were then replicated in a way similar to what happened to the etheric body of Sem. As a result, since the death on the cross, there exist copies of the etheric and astral bodies of Jesus of Nazareth. This has nothing to do with his I, which went on into the spiritual world and later continued incarnating.
In the first centuries after the Christ event we see how Christian writers were still working on the basis of a tradition passed on orally from the disciples of the Apostles. They placed value on tradition passed on through physical means. But later centuries could not have built upon these alone. Especially from the sixth and seventh centuries onward, great proclaimers of Christianity had a copy of the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth woven into them. Augustine was such a man. In his youth he had to go through mighty battles. Then the impulse of the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth became active in him in a very significant way; only then did he begin to generate Christian mysticism out of himself. His writings can only be understood in this light.
Many personalities have walked on the earth bearing such a copy within themselves. Columba, Gallus, Patrick 3The great Irish missionaries. — they all carried such a copy of the etheric body within them and for just this reason were in a position to spread Christianity. In this way a bridge was built from the Christ event to succeeding times.
In the eleventh and twelfth centuries we then see people who received into their own astral bodies the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth. Francis of Assisi was one such special person. When we follow his life we will find much that is not understandable. But we can understand especially his humility, his Christian devotion if we realize that such a mystery lived in him. Around the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries such people became proclaimers of Christianity through this interweaving of astral bodies. They received Christianity through grace.
The I of Jesus of Nazareth left the three sheaths at the baptism in the Jordan. Nevertheless, an image of this I, like the imprint of a seal, remained in the three sheaths. The Christ being took possession of these three bodies but he also took possession of something else, something that remained behind like an imprint of the I of Jesus. From the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries on, something like a copy of Jesus' I 4Compare the descriptions found in the lecture “More Intimate Aspects of Reincarnation” in The Principle of Spiritual Economy (GA 109). was woven into those men who then began to speak of an “inner Christ.” Meister Eckhart and Johannes Tauler were speaking out of their inner experience of something like an imprint of the I of Jesus of Nazareth.
Although there are still many people present today carrying something like a copy of the various bodies of Jesus of Nazareth, they no longer become leading personalities. More and more we see how in our fifth age there are people who must rely on themselves, on their own I. Such inspired people will become increasingly rare. Therefore, steps were taken to provide for the future so that a particular spiritual stream could arise in our time, a spiritual stream with the task of insuring that spiritual knowledge will still reach humanity. Those individuals who could see into the future had to provide for human beings who are wholly dependent on their merely human I. We are told in a legend that the vessel used by Christ Jesus with his disciples at the Last Supper was preserved. This is the legend of the Holy Grail. We see in the story of Parzival an expression of a pupil's typical path of development in our fifth post-Atlantean age. Parzival neglected to do one thing. He had been told that he should not ask questions. That is the important transition from the old age to the new. In ancient India, a devotion as passive as possible was necessary for the pupil; this was also true in Augustine's time and in the time of Francis of Assisi. All of these humble people let themselves be inspired by what lived in them, what had been woven into them. But now the I must carry the question in itself. Every soul today that passively receives what is given to it cannot go beyond itself. It can only observe what is going on in the physical world around it. Today the soul must ask questions, must lift itself above itself; it must grow out of itself. The soul today must ask questions as Parzival had to ask about the secrets of the Grail castle. 5Compare lecture cycle Christ and the Spiritual World and the Search for the Holy Grail (GA 149) (London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1963) and Chretien de Troyes, Perceval, or the History of the Grail.
Therefore, today spiritual research only begins when there are questions. The souls that are stimulated today by external science to question, to ask, and to seek — those are the Parzival souls. Therefore, a mystery stream was introduced that has been much persecuted, the Rosicrucian training that does not rely on any handed-down wisdom even if it gratefully accepts the old traditions. What constitutes the Rosicrucian approach to the spirit today has been researched directly in higher worlds with spiritual eyes — and with the means that the student himself has received as instructions. Today wisdom is proclaimed through the Rosicrucian approach to the spirit not because this or that is found in old books, not because these or those have believed this or that, but because it was researched. This was gradually prepared in the Rosicrucian schools founded in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries by the individuality named Christian Rosenkreuz.
Today this wisdom can be proclaimed as Theosophy. Those people simply no longer exist who, without their own involvement, are implanted with wisdom that inwardly inspires them. Today only those people who feel that Theosophy speaks to their hearts should come to it. We should not use propaganda and agitate for Theosophy. Only through their own free initiative should anyone come to Theosophy. This can occur when individuals are deeply affected in a living way by spiritual knowledge.
Then, through this Theosophical-Rosicrucian spiritual stream, we draw toward us what is available from the copies of the I of Jesus of Nazareth. In this way, those who prepare themselves for it draw into their souls the image of the I of Jesus of Nazareth. Then, through the fact that their inner soul life is like the imprint of a seal of the I of Christ, through this, such human beings take into their souls the principle of Christ. In this way Rosicrucianism prepares something positive. Theosophy should become life, so that any soul that truly absorbs Theosophy is gradually transformed. Absorbing Theosophy means that a soul is transformed such that it can arrive at an understanding of Christ.
Theosophists make themselves into living recipients of what Moses and Paul were given in the revelation of Yahweh-Christ. Therefore, we read in the fifth letter in the Apocalypse how the people of the fifth cultural epoch are those who truly take into themselves what will later be self-evident for the cultural epoch of the community of Philadelphia. The wisdom of the fifth cultural age will blossom forth as a flower of love in the sixth cultural age.
Humankind is called today to take in something new, something divine, and thereby to undertake again an ascent into the spiritual world. The theosophical teaching concerning evolution is imparted; it should not be believed but rather humankind should come to the point of understanding it through its own power of judgment. It is proclaimed to those who bear within themselves a seed of the essence of Parzival. And it is not proclaimed only to a particular people or place. Those who hear the call of spiritual wisdom will come together from all parts of humanity.