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A READER'S JOURNAL
Historical Personalities & Events
in the Light of Spiritual Science
6 Lectures, Stuttgart, 1910-1911, GA#126 Published by Rudolf Steiner Press in 1982
A Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2008
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What light can spiritual science shed upon historical personalities and events? One might even ask: How can there be anything left to study when materialistic science has finished its examination of history? The answer can be stated this way: a fuller realization of historical personalities and events can be achieved by looking at the influences upon them by spiritual beings who hover ever behind the scenes. Steiner explains in these six lectures how the potentials of personalities and events are fulfilled to the greatest extent by spiritual beings. We may not be able to experience these spiritual beings consciously in our time, but in the historical times discussed in these lectures, many people were able to do exactly that. This ability to bring out the full expression of a potentiality is what Aristotle labeled entelechy. This was Aristotle's way of sharing what he experienced directly from spiritual beings with whom he was familiar.(1)
Most important for newcomers to Rudolf Steiner's work is that he brings to us in these lectures, not a dogma, but a description of reality as he experiences it and which we can all feel as true and right in our hearts. Feeling is not a way of experiencing reality that is accepted by materialistic scientists, so one should not expect any of them to be swayed by the exhortation to use their hearts and feeling to determine the truth of anything.
[page 11, 12] Our study is intended to be an introduction to lectures which belong to the domain of occult history and will present historical facts and personalities in the light of Spiritual Science. In these lectures I shall have many things to say to you that will seem strange. You will hear many things that will have to reckon upon the will-for-understanding promoted by all the spiritual-scientific knowledge brought before you in the course of the years. For, after all, the finest, most significant fruit of the spiritual-scientific conception of the world is that, complicated and detailed as the knowledge is, we finally have before us not a collection of dogmas, but within us, in our hearts and feelings, we possess something that carries us beyond the standpoint we can reach through any other world-view. We do not imbibe so many dogmas, tenets, or mere information, but through our knowledge we become different human beings. In a certain respect, the aspects of Spiritual Science we shall now be considering call for more than a purely intellectual understanding for an understanding by the soul, which at many points must be willing to listen to and accept intimations that would become crass and crude if pressed into too sharp outlines.
There were spiritual beings operating behind the scenes and individuals operating in the forefront of events who were reincarnations of earlier individuals. Together these acted as guides and leaders in human evolution, and shaped the world know today. The average human being does not perceive spiritual beings operating behind the scenes today. Few of us even recognize or express gratitude to our individual Guardian Angel(2) who follows us from lifetime to lifetime. But that was not always the case, and the farther we go back into historical lore, the more it becomes obvious that people could see directly the spiritual beings who shaped the events of the world. In ancient Greece, these spiritual beings were given names and personalities and called "gods." Over 2500 years away from those times, we are left only with the truth contained in myths and fairy tales, what we might call the "Grimm" truth, after the famous "Grimm's Fairy Tales." Steiner blatantly claims that more truth is found in those tales than in flattened abstractions of modern science and history.
[page 12, 13] If you will remind yourselves of many things that have been said through the years, you will be able to picture that in ancient times and in Post-Atlantean times, too, if we go back only a few thousand years before what is usually called the historic era men fell into more or less abnormal states of clairvoyance. Between our matter-of-fact waking consciousness, limited as it is entirely to the physical world, and the unconscious sleeping state, there was once a realm of consciousness through which man penetrated into spiritual reality. And we know that what is nowadays explained as poetic folk-fantasy by scholars who are themselves the originators of so many scientific myths and legends, is to be traced back to ancient clairvoyance, to clairvoyant states of the human soul which in those times gazed behind physical existence and expressed what it saw in the pictures contained in myths, fairy-tales and legends. So that in old, genuinely old myths, fairy-tales and legends, more knowledge, more wisdom and truth are to be found than in the abstract erudition and science of the present day. Therefore when we look back to very ancient times, we find men who were clairvoyant; we know too that this clairvoyance faded away more and more among the various peoples in the different epochs. In the Christmas lecture today I told you how in Europe, at a comparatively very late time, abundant remains of this ancient clairvoyance still survived. The extinguishing of clairvoyance and the advent of consciousness limited to the physical plane occur at different times among the different peoples.
Our ability to experience the spiritual world directly with clairvoyant vision abated as a consequence of our evolution of consciousness over the earlier Post-Atlanteans cultural epochs. In the Indian, Persian, and Egypto-Chaldean epochs, the people carried this ability to view the spiritual world within them and felt a living connection with that world. This direct connection with the spiritual world only waned until finally fading away during the Greco-Latin epoch when a direct connection with the material world grew to take its place.
[page 13] Not until the Greco-Latin epoch did this living connection between the human soul and the spiritual world cease in essentials; nor did it disappear completely until our own times. As far as outer history is concerned, the connection exists in our time only when, with the means that are accessible to man to-day, the link between the human soul and the realities of the spiritual worlds is sought consciously. Thus in ancient times, when man looked into his own soul, this soul enshrined not only what it had learnt from the physical world, had pictured according to the pattern of the things of the physical world, but the spiritual Hierarchies ranging above man up into the spiritual worlds were experienced as immediate realities. All this worked down to the physical plane through the instrument of the human soul, and men knew themselves to be connected with these individual Beings of the higher Hierarchies. When we look back, let us say, into the Egypto-Chaldean epoch but it must be the earlier periods of it we find men who are, so to say, historical personalities; but we do not understand them if we think of them as historical personalities in the modern sense.
The farther we go back in time, the harder it is to understand human beings if we do not expand our definition of human being to include direct access to Beings of the Spiritual Hierarchies. Here we come upon the essence of the theme of the lectures of this book: our knowledge of these historical beings must take into account the presence of these spiritual beings operating within these early human beings. Who are these people?
[page 14] This applies, shall we say, to Hermes, the great Teacher of the Egyptian epoch, also to Zarathustra, and even to Moses. When we go back before the thousand years preceding the Christian era we must reckon with the fact that wherever we have to do with historical personalities, higher Individualities, higher Hierarchies stand behind and take possession of these personalities in the best sense of the word, of course.
What happened to our understanding of the world as our consciousness evolved into more direct experience of the physical world? What we had earlier understood as due to spiritual forces and beings, we began to understand as due to physical forces and objects. That is where we stand currently: in a world we understand as comprised only of forces and objects; a world solely determined by the laws of the science of physics. The grand scheme to develop a Theory of Everything, a Grand Unifying Theory (GUT), has foundered on the rocks of reality, as huge gaps have developed in every theory which attempts to be comprehensive(3). The more we look for the ultimate particle of physics, the more we realize that we are merely creating these so-called particles by our own method of searching for them, and they continue to multiply the more deeply we search. We are but recording the waves created by our looking and giving names to them as though they were real objects. In attempting to take our materialistic science to the Nth degree, we have discovered that there is no such thing as a thing! This realization, rightly understood, should bring any thinking person to understanding that a spiritual reality lies below our material world, just as a foundation lies below the building in which you, dear Reader, are reading these words.
[page 15] From this point of view it is highly interesting to perceive the connections between the really significant happenings those which were determinative factors in the course of history in the Egypto-Chaldean epoch and in the Greco-Latin epoch. These two culture-epochs follow one another, and to begin with we go back, let us say to the years from 2800 to 3200-3500 B.C. which comparatively speaking is not so very far. Nevertheless we shall not understand happenings then of which ancient history is already able to tell something to-day unless behind the historical personalities we discern the higher Individualities. But then it also becomes evident to us that in the fourth, the Greco-Latin epoch, there is a kind of repetition of the really important happenings of the third epoch. It is almost as if things that in the earlier epoch an be explained through higher laws, must be explained in the following age through laws of the physical world, as if everything had sunk down, had become a stage more material, more physical. There is a kind of reflection in the physical world of great events of the preceding period.
The great myth or story from the Egypto-Chaldean epoch is that of the "God-man" or Gilgamish. The goddess, Aruru, decides that Gilgamish needs a helper and causes Enkidu (Eabani) to arise out of the Earth. In what ensues, we see the first example of a man being partnered with a more primitive man, a theme which continues to this day in movies and television series. We can think of Don Juan and Sancho Panza in literature, but most recently we would think of Carlos Castaneda and Don Juan Matus, plus a slew of popular duos such as The Lone Ranger and Tonto, Cisco and Pancho, Red Ryder and Little Beaver, Batman and Robin, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Amos and Andy, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, and so forth. Always one finds the second name mentioned is a man with a more primitive and direct connection to the Earth than the first. The first man listed is an old soul (one of many incarnations) and the second man is a young soul (one of few incarnations) who is various characterized as a wild man, a rough, uncouth, a savage, but still providing insights for the older soul. In short, Enkidu befriends Gilgamish and helps his friend in many ways, but none more important than when Enkidu dies, and Gilgamish must face his own mortality.
[page 17] Gilgamish is now alone. A thought comes to him that gnaws at the very fibers of his soul. Under the impression of what he has experienced, he becomes conscious for the first time of the thought that man is mortal; a thought to which he had previously paid no heed comes before his soul in all its terror. And then he hears of the only man of earth who has remained immortal, whereas all other human beings in the Post-Atlantean epoch have become conscious of mortality: he hears of the immortal Xisuthros far away in the West. And because he is resolved to fathom the riddle of life and death, he sets out on the perilous journey to the West. I can tell you at once that this journey to the West is nothing else than the search for the secrets of ancient Atlantis, for happenings prior to the great Atlantean catastrophe.
What was life like for Man in the time before the Atlantean flood? It was the time before Adam, whose very name means "hard" and is the root of such words for hard as "diamond" and "adamantine". Adam was the first "hard" Man, the first Man to have bones in his body, the first Man to face the riddle of life and death, as Gilgamish was facing. Before the time of Adam, before the Flood, humans lived as immortals in a land of ever-present mist. They were in intimate contact with the spiritual beings and could see the spiritual emanations from other human beings as their primary method of sight. They saw clairvoyantly and maneuvered through the misty land with their supersensible sight. They never felt the need for sleep because their bodies were fluid and stretchable and not fixed and rigid as our own. When Gilgamish finally locates Xisuthros and asks him for advice on how he might be immortal, Xisuthros tells him he must stay awake for seven days and nights without falling asleep. This is merely a description of how the people of the pre-Flood times lived without sleeping. Yes, it was a condition that accompanied their immortality, but it was a feat that no Man could achieve, even the mighty Gilgamish, because of the evolution of Man after the Flood.
However, the quest of Gilgamish is fulfilled because he undergoes an initiation when given seven mystic loaves which act as a life elixir. For a time he experiences immortality, knows that it exists, and he is able to meet Enkidu (Eabani). Gilgamish returns to his own country in Chaldea with the knowledge that a spiritual world exists in which Man is truly immortal, even though the circadian evidence of that fact had been lost to post-Atlantean hard Man.
[page 18] Thereupon Xisuthros says to him: "You too can have this consciousness, but you must undergo all that I had to experience in overcoming the terror, anxiety and loneliness through which it was my lot to pass. When the god Ea had resolved to let perish" (in what we call the Atlantean catastrophe) "that part of humanity which was to live no longer, he bade me to withdraw into a kind of ship. I was to take with me the animals that were to remain, and those Individualities who are truly to be called the Masters. By means of this ship I outlived the great catastrophe." Xisuthros then tells Gilgamish: "What was there undergone, you can experience only in your innermost being; but you can attain the consciousness of immortality if for seven nights and six days you refrain from sleep." Gilgamish wishes to submit to the test but soon falls asleep. Then the wife of Xisuthros baked seven mystic loaves which by being eaten are to be a substitute for what would have been attained in the seven nights and six days without sleep. With this "life-elixir" Gilgamish continues his journeying, bathes as it were in a fountain of youth, and again reaches the borders of his own country in the region of the Euphrates and the Tigris. A serpent deprives him of the power of the life-elixir and so he reaches his country without it, but all the same with the consciousness that there is indeed immortality, and filled with longing to see the spirit at least, of Eabani. The spirit of Eabani appears to him, and from the discourse which then takes place we can glean how, for the culture of the Egypto-Chaldean epoch, a consciousness of the link with the spiritual world could arise.
The secrets of the existence of the spiritual world were passed on to students of the Mystery schools in such places as the Temple of Diana in Ephesus. Soon the cult of personality arose and Man was unable to understand those secrets unless being initiated into the Mysteries, a process which recapitulated the trials that Gilgamish underwent during his long journey into understanding. Steiner reveals to us the epitome of the Man of personality who tried to destroy Diana's temple of Ephesus and we catch a glimpse of the reincarnation of the spirit of the individuality known previously as Gilgamish, re-appearing as Alexander the Great, with a most unexpected Enkidu (Eabani) by his side acting as his teacher, Aristotle.
[page 20, 21] A great deal in these Mysteries was no longer comprehensible in an age when human personality had come into prominence. And like a token of how little the purely external personality understood what had remained spiritually, there stands the half-mystical figure of Herostratus, who has eyes only for the superficial aspect of personality Herostratus who flings the burning torch into the temple of Ephesus. This deed is like a token of the clash between the personality and what had survived from ancient spirituality. And on the very same day when a man, merely in order that his name might go down to posterity, throws the burning brand into the sanctuary of Ephesus, there is born the man who has achieved more than all others for the culture of personality and on the very soil where the culture of were personality was meant to be overcome. Herostratus flings the burning torch on the day when Alexander the Great is born the man who is all personality! Alexander the Great stands there as the shadow-image of Gilgamish. A profound truth lies behind this. In the Greco-Latin epoch, Alexander the Great stands there as the shadow image of Gilgamish, as a projection of the spiritual an to the physical plane. And Eabani, projected on to the physical plane, is Aristotle, the teacher of Alexander the Great.
Here indeed is a strange circumstance: Alexander and Aristotle standing, like Gilgamish and Eabani, side by side.
Note that Steiner does not claim that Gilgamish is reincarnated as Alexander, but calls the latter the "shadow-image" of the former. The case of whether this shadow image represents a reincarnation is left to each person. There is no dogma in spiritual science, no rules about how one is to interpret the indications in the descriptions of Rudolf Steiner, and Steiner would be the first to admonish someone who blatantly claimed that "spiritual science says Alexander was reincarnated Gilgamish". Yet, the indications are there. In more recent times when Rudolf Steiner stood side by side with Ita Wegman, there were similar indications that the spirits of Alexander and Aristotle's shadow images were there. Steiner had undergone a similar initiation journey to that of Gilgamish and he returned to describe to us, as members of the fifth Post-Atlantean cultural epoch, the salient events of the third Post-Atlantean epoch in the area of Mesopotamia.
[page 22, 23] There again we have a projection on the physical plane of earlier, more spiritual conditions. In the Orphic Mysteries of ancient Greece there was a wonderful personality, one who was initiated in the Mystery-secrets and was among the most loveable, most interesting pupils of these Mysteries, well prepared by a certain Celtic(4) occult training undergone in earlier incarnations. This individuality sought with deepest fervor for the secrets of the Orphic Mysteries. The pupils of these Mysteries had to live through in their own soul what is described in the myth of Dionysos Zagreus, who was dismembered by the Titans but whose body was carried away by Zeus into a higher life. How, as the result of a certain path taken in the Mysteries, man's life is surrendered to the outer world, how his whole being is torn in pieces so that he can no longer find his bearings within himself this was to become an actual, individual experience in the pupils of the Orphic Mysteries.
This being dismembered and re-assembled is reflected in our alphabet. The alphabet allows us, when we reunite its torn pieces, its individual characters, into words, to form representations of our thoughts and to communicate these representations to other humans via language. Thus the myth of Dionysos can be a metaphor for the process of language.
It may seem strange to some for Steiner to be talking about spiritual beings operating behind the scenes to effect changes in the world through human beings, but such events are happening yet today. One need only look at the life and writings of Jane Roberts, Jach Pursel, and JZ Knight to see the operation of the spiritual beings of Seth, Lazaris, and Ramtha in their lives. These three humans have acted as channels for three spiritual beings, who, with the exception of Ramtha, claim to have never been incarnated in a human body, and Ramtha only 350 centuries earlier.
[page 27] In the introductory lecture yesterday our attention was drawn to the fact that certain events in the more ancient history of mankind can be rightly understood only when we not merely observe the forces and faculties of the personalities themselves, but when we realize at the outset that through the personalities in question, as through instruments, Beings are working who allow their deeds to stream down from higher worlds into our world. We must realize that these Beings cannot take direct hold of the physical facts of our existence because, on account of the present stage of their development, they cannot incarnate in a physical Body which draws its constituents from the physical world. If, therefore, they desire to work within our physical world, they must make use of the physical human being of his deeds, but also of his intellect, his powers of understanding. We find the influence and penetration of such Beings of the higher world the more clearly in evidence the farther back we go in the ages of the evolution of humanity. But it must not be imagined that this downpouring of forces and activities from the higher worlds into the physical world through human beings has ever ceased; it continues even into our own time.
During the recent funeral of JB, a friend of ours, I picked up about four materialistic presuppositions from the priest doing the Mass. For example, he talked about JB as "going away" during a time in which my thoughts had our dear friend ever present in living spiritual reality. "Where could he have gone to?" was the question raised by the priest's question. JB's body was present in the coffin, and it, in its temporary material form, was to be buried shortly; it could go away. But JB's spirit was alive and present everywhere in the world. When JB's friends were led by the priest to feel bad because "he had gone away", JB's spirit experienced great pain. Even now JB is here, present in reality, in living spirit, right now as I think of him while I type these words! The materialistic idea that we go somewhere else after death is so pervasive in our culture today that it goes invisible and unnoticed, as water does to a flounder. It is the medium in which we live, up until now.
I have learned to talk directly to friends about the living spirit of a recently deceased friend. What I have noticed invariably is a lightening up of the feeling state of the person that I am talking to. When I talked to my friend Tom after JB's death about JB's spirit being still around, Tom agreed, but he took it as if I was using spirit in the form we use for school spirit. After I carefully explained that I was talking about JB's living spirit, not a metaphoric spirit which lives on in friends left behind after someone "goes away", Tom got the reality of what I was expressing, and his demeanor brightened up considerably. Expressions, like "going away" that the priest used, foster the prevalent materialistic view of the world. They are empty phrases which sound logical and well-formed, but, rightly understood, they are abstract ideas vacant of meaning and they do more harm than good.
Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans, was led by the strong spiritual forces of the Archangel Michael and she single-handedly kept England from taking over France and completely changing the face of Europe forever. Steiner describes the details of her deed, both from the view of the Akasha Chronicle (supersensible record of living deeds) and from historical documents, and shows us incontrovertibly the evidence of spiritual beings at work in her life, directing and assisting in her deed. Steiner gives us the full text of a letter from 1429 about Joan of Arc and this comment:
[page 35] This letter was written by one who knew the Maid and was in close contact with the King. It is indeed amazing when one discovers all these things on purely occult grounds and with occult means of proof for they are indeed to be found in the Akasha Chronicle and then sees how, in cases like this, actual historical documents can also be produced. In short, it seems almost madness to doubt what was working through the Maid of Orleans. And when we also take into consideration the fact that through her deeds the whole history of modern time assumed a different aspect, this gives us the right to say that here, verified by documentary evidence, we can see the direct intervention of the supersensible worlds.
Earlier in the story of Gilgamish and Enkidu (Eabani), we discovered that the former was an old soul of many incarnations and the latter a young soul of only a few incarnations. The young soul has a way of clairvoyant vision that the old soul is blind to. As a result the old soul needs the eyes of the younger soul. Together they are like the blind man who carries the cripple on his shoulders. Together they can make progress on the blind man's feet while the cripple navigates with his sight. It struck me that we are like the blind man and Rudolf Steiner today is the cripple. Though he can no longer maneuver physically in the world, through his words, he can act as a guide for us as we maneuver in the world.
[page 40] In the condition of soul at first prevailing in him, Gilgamish could not himself be aware of such things; he did not see their full implications. But a younger soul could be for him as it were the clairvoyant sense which enabled him to recapture the temple treasure for his own city. Gilgamish now realized that in human life, especially in times of transition, there is such a thing as is described in the legend of the blind man and the cripple: each is helpless alone, but together they can make progress inasmuch as the blind man carries the cripple on his shoulders and the cripple lends the blind man his power of sight. In Gilgamish and Eabani, whose respective gifts differed so greatly, we see the same kind of co-operation transformed into the spiritual. In the historical facts of ancient times we find this at every turn. And it is important to understand it, for only then do we realize why it is that myths and sagas so often tell of friends who have to achieve something together friends who are generally as unlike in their nature of soul as were Gilgamish and Eabani. But what Gilgamish also acquired through his friend Eabani was this: he was as it were "infected" by Eabani with a clairvoyant power of his own, so that to a certain extent he could look back into his own earlier incarnations. This would certainly have been beyond his normal faculties.
We are living in the fifth Post-Atlantean cultural epoch, and we must learn to use our understanding of the physical world as a foundation for reaching upward into the spiritual world. People ask me, "Why are you not using your physics?" when they find out my academic background and compare that to my writing. I tell them, "I use my physics every day; it is the foundation upon which I build my understanding of the world which is composed of both the material and the spiritual." Steiner uses the example of the Maid of Orleans to illustrate that point:
[page 53] The Maid of Orleans is therefore a personality already working entirely in the spirit of our own epoch, when everything that we can produce on the foundation of our outer impressions must be directed upward to the spiritual. But what does this mean when we apply it to our own culture and civilization? It means this. We may direct our attention, naively to begin with, to our environment, but if we stop at that, if we have eyes for the outer impressions only, then we are not fulfilling our bounden obligation. We fulfil it only when we are conscious that these impressions must be related to the spiritual Powers behind them. When we pursue science in the manner of academic scholarship, we are not fulfilling our obligation. We must regard everything that we can learn about the laws of natural phenomena and the laws of the manifestations of the life of soul as though it were a language which is to lead us to a revelation of the divine-spiritual. When we are conscious that all physical, chemical, biological, physiological, psychological laws must be related to something spiritual that is revealing itself to us, then we are fulfilling our obligation.
One can only be conscious of how all physical, chemical, biological, physiological, and psychological laws are related to the spiritual world if one has appropriately studied all those facets of reality. One comes by such diverse knowledge only after long study. When one has studied all these areas of life, one can notice an amazing thing which can be stated this way: "A work of art is the outer language of the spiritual world." (See italicized phrase in the passage below.)
I recall vividly when the insight that Art is the process of destruction first came to me. It was before I had delved into Rudolf Steiners works, but later when I had, I came to understand that true art originates in the spiritual world. When it speaks to one of us, no one else understands it for a time; it speaks a new language unfamiliar to them. A true work of art destroys the sameness of all the art which existed before. Why? Because it has arrived fresh from the spiritual world. It has entered the world of familiar art works with an unfamiliarity that is often rejected and spurned until everyone comes to learn the language it speaks, and only then does it speak to all of us.
Richard Wagner, the famous composer, brought incredible musical works of art into existence. His opponents were vociferous in their opposition to his works.
[page 54, 55] In our time the urge has arisen instinctively in personalities of great artistic gifts, to present art as a kind of offering to the divine-spiritual worlds; that is to say, to regard what is clothed in musical tones, for example, as an interpretation of spiritual mysteries. In the history of culture viewed from its occult aspect, Richard Wagner will one day have to be so regarded, down to the very details of his art. He, particularly, will have to be regarded as a representative man of our fifth culture-epoch, as one who always felt the urge to express in what lived in him in the form of musical tones, the impetus towards the spiritual world; who looked upon a work of art as the outer language of the spiritual world. In him the remains of ancient culture and the dawn of a new culture face each other in sharp, even discordant, contrast in our time. Have we not witnessed how the purely human arrangement of the tones, the purely formal music which Richard Wagner wanted to surmount, was vigorously defended by his opponents because they were incapable of feeling that in him a new impulse was rising instinctively, like the dawn of a new day?
I do not know whether the majority of you are aware that for a long, long time Richard Wagner has had the bitterest, most rabid critics and opponents.
If one has seen the movie, "Amadeus", which was based on Pushkin's play about Mozart, one can hear echoes of the complaints of Salieri about Mozart's music in the complaints of Hanslick about Wagner:
[page 55] Hanslick says that Richard Wagner is no musician, that he simply does not understand the essence of the musical, that the essence of music lies simply in the architecture of the tone-material. What can one say about such a phenomenon? One can only say that Hanslick was pre-eminently a reactionary, a straggler from the fourth culture-epoch. Then in that epoch he would have been right; but what is right for one epoch is not valid for the next. From Hanslick's standpoint one can say: Richard Wagner is no musician. But then one would have to add: that epoch is now over; we must accept what springs from it, reconciling ourselves through the fact that music, as Hanslick understands it, is expanding into something altogether new.
From such studies as these, we begin to understand what the evolution of consciousness means to us in the field of art. New art works speak to us from out of the spiritual world; they arrive with a freshness is that startling and alarming, but they prepare us for changes in the evolution of humanity which will be arriving. True art is the harbinger of change.
But changes can also be noted in the various branches of science. Our sciences are based solely on observations of sensory data which are structured into abstract laws. These manmade laws can be completely accurate and yet blatantly counter-factual! The sciences have a great need for identifying, respecting, and acknowledging the foundation of the spiritual realities upon which they are based.
[page 55, 56] This clash between the old and the new can be observed in many domains, particularly in our own culture-epoch, and it is extraordinarily interesting to observe it especially in the various branches of science. It would lead much too far to attempt to show how there are reactionaries everywhere, as well as those who are striving to produce out of the different sciences what science ought to become: the expression of a divine-spiritual reality behind the phenomena. Spiritual Science should be the basic element which permeates the present time in order that the divine-spiritual may more and more consciously be made the goal and focus of our labors. Spiritual Science should everywhere awaken the impulses leading from below upwards, summoning human souls to offer up what is gained through external impressions for the sake of what is attained as we work our way to the higher regions of [spirit].
Aristotle gave the definition of a Greek tragedy play thus: "A tragedy is a weaving together round a hero of successive actions, which are able to arouse in the spectator the emotions of fear and compassion in order that a catharsis may take place in his soul." (Page 64) What made it possible for Aristotle to define a tragedy so explicitly was his initiation, his training in confronting the spiritual world in the Mysteries. The Greek tragedy was a form of didactic art which provided training to those people who would never be initiated directly in the Mysteries. They still perform that role to this day.
[page 63] But still another feeling was to be developed a feeling paramount among many others. If man is to penetrate into the spiritual world, he must realize that everything in that world differs from the things of the physical world. He who is to confront the spiritual world face to face must stand before it as before something completely unknown. Fear of the unknown is present there as an actual danger. Therefore in these Mysteries, in order to equip itself to banish all the feelings of fear, anxiety, terror and horror known to man, the soul must first experience them to their very depths. Then the pupil was armed for the ascent into the unknown purlieus of the spiritual world. The soul of the pupil of these Mysteries had to be so trained as to acquire an all-embracing, universal feeling of compassion and of fearlessness. This was the ordeal to be endured by every soul in those ancient Mysteries in which Eabani [Enkidu] participated when he appeared again in the incarnation lying between his lives as Eabani and as Aristotle. This too he experienced. And it arose again in Aristotle like a memory of earlier incarnations. He was able to define the essence of tragedy precisely because out of such memories there arose in him at the spectacle of Greek tragedy the realization that here was an echo, a reproduction carried outwards to the physical plane, of that Mystery-training wherein the soul is purified through experiencing compassion and fear. Thus the hero and the whole construction of a tragedy must present a spectacle which on a milder level evokes in the audience compassion with the face of the hero and fear in face of the destiny and terrible death that beckon him. And so the experiences undergone by the soul of the ancient mystic were woven into the succession of events in the tragedy, into the plot and movement of the drama: purification, catharsis, through fear and compassion, and like an echo, the man of the Greek epoch was to experience this an the physical plane. What was formerly a great educative principle was now be experienced through the medium of aesthetic enjoyment.
Every now and then a character in history burns brightly and then disappears, like the kind of star in the heavens that we call a nova or supernova. This was the case for Tycho Brahe, who gave the name nova to this type of star, when he became the first person to observe such a transition by a star. But we remember him yet today four centuries later because the intricate record he made of the positions of the stars and planets in the sky became the groundwork for Kepler's laws of the motion of the heavens around us. Brahe was a daydreamer forced to study law under the stern eye of his tutor, and, while his tutor slept, Brahe worked by night avidly studying the stars in the sky.
[page 81] During the 16th century, in the year 1546, a remarkable man was born of a noble house of Northern Europe, and in his very cradle, so to speak, everything was laid including family wealth that could have led him to positions of great honor in the traditional life of that time. Because, in line with his family traditions, it was intended that he should occupy some eminent political or other high position, he was marked out for the legal profession and sent with a tutor to the University of Leipzig to study jurisprudence. The tutor tormented the boy for he was still a boy when he was forced to study law all day long. But at night, while the tutor was sleeping the sleep of the just and dreaming of legal theories, the boy stole out of bed and observed the stars with the very simple instruments he had himself devised. And very soon he knew not only more than any of the teachers about the secrets of the stars but more than was to he found at that time in any book. For example, he very soon noticed a definite position of Saturn and Jupiter in the constellation of Leo, turned to the books and found that they recorded it quite erroneously. The longing then arose in him to acquire as exact a knowledge as possible of this star-script, to record as accurately as possible the course of the stars. No wonder that in spite of all his family's resistance he soon extracted the permission to become a natural philosopher and astronomer, instead of dreaming his life away over legal books and doctrines. And having considerable means at his disposal, he was able to set up a whole establishment.
In lecture five, Steiner describes how the spiritual hierarchies worked closely with the first four post-Atlantean cultural epochs. The Spirits of Twilight (angels) poured their forces into the Ancient India Epoch, followed by the Spirits of Fire (archangels) in the succeeding Ancient Persia Epoch, and the Spirits of Personality (archai) during the Egypto-Chaldean epoch. By studying the effects of these hierarchies on the human beings during these epochs, we get a better sense of the occult course of history:
[page 87, 88] 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 civilization 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 down-flow 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.
The ancient Persians were the first epoch to work extensively with hard materials for building structures. Since the very name "archangel" came originally from "ore-angel" because they resided in minerals and ores of various types, we see a connection between the work of the Persians and the prominence of archangels in their epoch. What Steiner focused on in this lecture was the work, not of the average Persian, but of their great teacher, the original Zarathustra, in charting the stars by separating their influence upon human beings into the twelve sectors of the night sky we call the zodiac(5). Zarathustra taught that the two opposing powers of light and dark, Ormuzd and Ahriman, each filled the sky around the Earth, Ormuzd filled the six sectors of the daylight side of the zodiac, and Ahriman the six sector of the night side. There were twelve archangels or Spirits of Fire which worked upon human beings and each of us today are benefactors of their work for our twelve main cerebral nerve pathways. Also he describes the 28 to 31 spinal nerves which arose from the India epoch by the work of the Spirits of Twilight (angels). Modern physiology knows these exist, but are clueless as to how they were formed from the spiritual work of angels and archangels, up until now.
[page 89, 90] It should not be beyond the scope of modern physiology to know where the microcosmic counterparts of the twelve Amshaspands [RJM: archangels] 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.
When we arrive at the period of ancient Greek and Rome, the Greco-Latin epoch as Steiner calls it in these lectures, we have reached the fourth post-Atlantean cultural epoch. We would expect the next level in the spiritual hierarchy to be prominent in the lives of these ancient peoples, and that would be the Spirits of Form (elohim or exusiai). Suddenly humans were directed away from the inner world to the outer world, the world of sensory perceptions. What had previously been perceived within one's soul was suddenly sculptured in marble as beautiful statues of human form.
[page 92, 93] The Spirits of Form . . . 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 recognize 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.
The effect of all of this work by the Spirits of Form was to create for the first time the strong appearance of the ego of the human being in the works of Man.
[page 103, 104] If we want to think of an eminently characteristic example of progress in culture we can surmise that it must be one in which the principle of the universal-human, the weaving of the ego in the ego, appeared in the most striking form. This, as we have shown, was the case in the culture of the ancient Greeks. We have there a clear illustration of a civilization running its own characteristic course; for the achievements of the three preceding civilization-epochs and of the epoch following that of Greece are modified in a quite different way by forces outside man. Hence what lies in the human being himself, whereby he makes his mark upon the world, everything which, proceeding from super-sensible powers, is able to express itself in him in the most characteristically human way this is exemplified in the middle, the Fourth civilization-epoch.
When we admire or praise the works of the ancient Greeks and Romans, we are calling our attention to the origins of what makes each of us truly human as its first beams appeared in the dawn of humankind. Their culture was the flower of the seeds and nurturing plants by the spiritual hierarchies during the three previous epochs and the work of the Spirits of Form in the fourth.
[page 104] We must therefore realise that when Greek culture appears to outer observation. as if everything sprang from the essentially human element, it already has behind it a period when it was, so to speak, under the influence of the teachings of higher spiritual Beings. It was through these higher spiritual Beings that Greek culture was able to rise to the heights it achieved in bringing the essentially human element to expression.
Whereas the previous epochs left buildings such as the pyramids and stories such as Gilgamish, the Greco-Roman epoch left us spiritual understandings and secrets of inner life in the form of shapes in marble and bronze which we can yet examine today.
[page 105] If, therefore, we study Greek culture against the deep background of the Mysteries, we can begin to divine its real nature. And because the secrets of the life in supersensible worlds were conveyed in a certain human form to the artists of Greece, they were able in their sculptures to embody in marble or in bronze, what had originally been hidden in the secrecy of the Mysteries. Even what confronts us in Greek philosophy clearly shows that its highest achievements were in truth ancient Mystery-wisdom translated into terms of intellect and reason. There is a symbolic indication of this when we are told that Heraclitus offered up his work, On Nature, as a sacrificial act in the temple of Diana at Ephesus. This means that he regarded what the weaving of the ego in the ego enabled him to say as an offering to the spiritual Powers of the preceding epoch with whom he knew himself to be connected.
What do we learn about history from all of this? The deeper meaning behind the Persian Wars, for one thing. These wars represented the culture of the fourth post-Atlantean culture fighting to survive against the forces of the third post-Atlantean culture, namely the Greeks against the Persians of the Egypto-Chaldean culture. The whole of Southern European culture hung in the balance with each onslaught of the massive Persian forces. The spirits of the Greeks were inflamed, as it were, with the deeply felt waves from the future humming within which incited them to defeat the Persians in order for European history to survive today as we know it.
[page 106] If we picture Greek civilization rising up from unknown depths even during the decline of Babylonian culture, then, in the age of the Persian Wars we can clearly perceive the effects of what the Greek character had received from the old temple-wisdom. For in these Persian Wars we see how the heroes of Greece, aflame with enthusiasm for the heritage received from their forefathers, fling themselves against the stream which, as an ebbing stream from the East, is surging towards them. The significance of their violent resistance, when the treasures of the temple-wisdom, when the teachers of the ancient Greek Mysteries themselves were fighting in the souls of the Greek heroes in the battles against the Persians, against the waning culture of the East the significance of all this can be grasped by the human soul if the question is asked: What must have become of Southern Europe, indeed of the whole of later Europe, if the onset of the massive hordes from the East had not been beaten back at that time by the little Greek people? What the Greeks then achieved contained the seed of all later developments in European civilization up to our own times.
This review has provided a sampling of the thoughts of how spiritual beings have operated and continue to operate behind the human beings in the world. But thoughts are but empty phrases unless they find a home in human feelings about the matters which Steiner shares with us in these lectures. It is our job as reader to provide a place in our hearts for these feelings so that we may go forth in our time with an understanding of how modern events are unfolding out of the spiritual world. We live on a robust planet which is designed to be a garden to sustain our life and a launching pad from which we may spring into the spiritual world. We do best to study carefully, with heart-felt understanding, the workings of the spiritual hierarchies in our world.
---------------------------- Footnotes -----------------------------------------
Footnote 1. In our time, materialistic science has a way of labeling something in order to discard it off-hand. It did this with entelechy by calling it an elan vital and set about ridiculing the existence of an elan vital.Return to text directly before Footnote 1.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Return to text directly before Footnote 2.
Footnote 3. The latest theory to sink beneath the waves is string theory. Here is a blurb for a recent book, "The Trouble With Physics" by a former string theorist, Lee Smolin, which explains the problem: "Smolin argues that physics the basis for all other science has lost its way. The problem is that string theory, an ambitious attempt to formulate a theory of everything that explains all the forces and particles of nature and how the universe came to be, with its exotic new particles and parallel universes, has captured the public's imagination and seduced many physicists. But as Smolin reveals, there's a deep flaw in the theory: no part of it has been proven, and no one knows how to prove it. As a scientific theory, it has been a colossal failure. And because it has soaked up the lion's share of funding, attracted some of the best minds, and penalized young physicists for pursuing other avenues, it is dragging the rest of physics down with it. . . . This is a wake-up call, and Lee Smolin is the perfect person to deliver it."Return to text directly before Footnote 3.
Footnote 4. To understand the connection of the Celts to mystery training, one needs to know that the earliest peoples to leave Atlantis before the flood settled in the first island they encountered, namely, Ireland, and constituted what was later known as the Celtic people.Return to text directly before Footnote 4.
Footnote 5. The term zodiac, from the Greek, is related to our word for "zoo" it means "little animals". This term referred to the animal names given to the twelve sectors of the night sky, the little zoo of the sky, or zodiac.Return to text directly before Footnote 5.
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