Reading the Pictures of the Apocalypse
The inflation of pictures and of sounds during the twentieth century is greater than at any other time in the history of humankind, whereas a conscious relationship to seeing and to hearing seems to be diminishing rapidly. Human beings drown in pictures and sounds, becoming dulled in the process, and yet experiencing an uncanny feeling if only the natural world surrounds them and all grows silent.
Rudolf Steiner draws attention to the fact that although the gesture of this hunger for pictures appears today in a distorted form, it nevertheless indicates a future condition in which humanity will have developed the “conscious picture-consciousness” that at the present time only spiritually advanced human beings can call upon. In this state human beings will be able to perceive in totally awakened consciousness not only what appears to the physical senses but also the spiritual configuration that lives behind and in a thought, for example, or a feeling or even a will impulse.
Inwardly, human beings tend to sense their own spiritual future, and this tendency often lies behind artistic impulses that seek to express the deeper secrets in human and divine existence. Through many centuries since St. John, “the disciple whom the Lord loved,” received the Revelation on the island of Patmos from the resurrected Christ Jesus, artists have depicted the content of these Revelation pictures in many forms, such as in the seventy-four miniatures of the Trier Apocalypse from the ninth century and the well-known Dürer Apocalypse. And yet the Apocalypse of St. John has remained essentially undeciphered for modern consciousness, although it seems clear that it contains mysteries concerning the past and future evolution of humanity.
From 1901 to 1909, Rudolf Steiner gave lectures in which he illuminated many aspects of the Revelation of St. John. The lectures on this theme from 1907, contained in the present volume, were held just prior to the large international Congress of the Theosophical Society in Munich. It was during this congress that it became clear to all members that Rudolf Steiner's spiritual direction and intentions were deeply and decidedly connected with esoteric Christianity. In these lectures, in those of 1909 in Oslo, also printed here for the first time, as well as in the lectures in Nürnberg in 1908, “The Apocalypse of St. John,” Rudolf Steiner serves human beings at the end of the twentieth century as a timely revealer of mysteries that must be grasped soon if humankind's earthly and spiritual development is to progress in an upward direction. We can be grateful that these lectures of 1907 and 1909 to the English-speaking world have become available through this translation so soon after the first publication in German. They hold many a key which may unlock crucial doors for an understanding of the final years of the twentieth century.