[RSArchive Icon]
Rudolf Steiner Archive Section Name Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib

Highlight Words

Reading the Pictures of the Apocalypse

Reading the Pictures of the Apocalypse: Part 2: Lecture Five


KRISTIANIA — May 14, 1909

THE AGE OF HUMAN EVOLUTION that counts as the fourth and is characterized by the letter to the community in Thyatira began in the seventh or eighth century before Christ and lasted until the thirteenth or fourteenth century after Christ's birth. Only then do we begin to count our fifth age, the Germanic cultural epoch. The fourth age stands in the middle. In manifold ways it brought to expression the life between birth and death and developed a love for the material world. It had its greatest blossoming in the beauty of Greek art.

The soul would have had to experience a darkening if the event of Golgotha had not occurred, if the light coming forth from this event had not had its effect. After human beings came to full consciousness of their earthly I, when they had fully entered into the physical world, there appears, among other things, for the first time the concept of the “last will and testament” as a sign that the human will had become so important that it survived death. This first appears only in ancient Rome, not yet in Greece. Greece did not yet have the concept of the single man or woman standing firmly anchored on the earth. Only gradually did the feeling arise that the human being was not only a member of a community but an individual. Before this the concept of personality, the concept of the divine-spiritual anchored in the human being, would not have been understood. In ancient Greece they could only understand the divine-spiritual residing in the spiritual world. But Greek culture could, in the fullest sense, feel what it meant to know with human consciousness that the I lives. Nevertheless, it did not recognize that the I is divine. In the Orient it was proclaimed by Moses. For the Greeks, between birth and death it was not present as something spiritual. And there was a deeply tragic feeling that went through all the souls ... [gap in manuscript]. The Greeks said to themselves that the human being has descended from the divine spiritual world. But they did not know that human beings could work themselves back up into that world again, that they could return in the future to the spiritual world.

This is expressed in the myth of Prometheus; [See Note 1] it is expressed so tragically in the drama of Aeschylus [See Note 2] when Io, who has become insane, appears to Prometheus. Io represents the old clairvoyant consciousness that, in this fourth epoch, could no longer appear in normal states of consciousness but only in a state of madness. Science in the modern sense did not yet exist in the earliest times of our culture. Only gradually did the human being become a seeker in that science which can independently research the external world independently. For this reason something like science has only existed since Thales. [See Note 3] It is an abstraction to speak of “oriental philosophy.” Those who began science with Thales were right: before them science was always inspired, born out of the mysteries. That was the case with Heraclitus, [See Note 4] who was still inspired by ancient mystery wisdom. We are told that he placed his book on the altar of the goddess of Ephesus.

To the extent that external natural science increases in humanity, to that extent true wisdom will be obstructed. We are told in the fourth letter of the Apocalypse how people must find the connection to true wisdom. Let us assume that the Christ principle, the revelation of Golgotha would not have come. Then, in terms of external science, outstanding people such as Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and so forth, [See Note 5] would have been present, but the science would have remained merely intellectual and none of it would have contributed to a new ascent to the spiritual. Celsus, [See Note 6] the contemporary of Marcus Aurelius, wrote only external historical gossip about the event of Golgotha. But in terms of scientific, logical thinking these people all stood at the highest level.

What is called skepticism came into this stream. We find in Roman culture a complete skepticism existing alongside a highly refined approach to knowledge concerning all things intellectual. Let us consider, on the other hand, a personality like Augustine's. He was not in a position to arrive at anything other than doubt concerning what he had learned of Greek and Roman science. Then he encountered Manicheism, which he came to know only in a false form. He became acquainted with a teaching that took into account everything that Zarathustra taught. However, his soul was not inclined to take in all of this because the souls of the people living at that time were not meant to undertake such lofty flights of the spirit and see the spirit everywhere behind the physical world. The science that had penetrated all the way to the stars deteriorated; and even if this science had reached the Europeans no one could have understood it. The soul had to remain attached to what could be seen in the external world of the senses.

Science only reawakened during the time of the Renaissance. What Greece and Rome had started became Arabic wisdom; it became the spirit of Mohammedanism. Arabism then spread from Spain into Europe. This science is outstanding with regard to everything directly relating to the sensible-sensual world. The science that became a powerful stimulus for European science, that influenced Bacon and Spinoza, [See Note 7] arises from Spanish Arabism. It comes from Spain. However, it cannot rise above a pantheism that is unable to reach concrete spiritual beings. Arabism did not arrive at the concrete. It ascended to the sensible human being but what was seen beyond that was only an abstract divine unity. It was not known what this unity is. A poor and comfortable world view! There is no knowledge of the spirit if it is summed up in a unity. Therein lies the poverty of pantheism.

As a result, we entered the fifth age with a science of the external world that began its great rise to ascendancy in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. We see this, for example, with the Scholastics. We experience in their thought the dawning of a new science that is, however, wholly chained to the sense world, that is unable to go even a step beyond the sense world. Thus we see how the split appears between faith and knowledge. Augustine was not able to understand a reference to something spiritual standing behind the sun. He did not understand Manicheism because it speaks of the veil of the senses spread over the spiritual. He could believe in Christ who had descended into a physical man. But faith and knowledge had entirely split apart at that time. All believers who stood on medieval science wanted faith and knowledge entirely separated.

We can illustrate schematically how what began in the Greco-Latin age still lives today, only on the external, physical level. The evolution of humankind takes place in such a way that what was cultivated in the Egypto-Chaldean age we experience again today — but we experience it as knowledge, and now it is illuminated and spiritualized by the Christ impulse. Everywhere in Europe we see the ancient wisdom of Egypt appearing again, but illuminated by the principle of Christ. In our time the human being will only be able to take this in consciously through the Rosicrucian teaching.


 Diagram 5
Diagram 5
Click image for large view


When the ancient Egyptians spoke of the stars they meant the spiritual aspect of the stars, which they still knew. A wonderful consciousness of ancient knowledge penetrated the science of Copernicus and Kepler. As a result, what the ancient Egyptians knew we now see appearing in a physical form. In the past they had seen beings moving through space, now only spheres were seen, moving in elliptical circles.

The fifth epoch is called to find again the spiritual world behind sense existence; and Theosophy must reach the point where it can lead people increasingly to permeate all knowledge with the principle of Christ.

If a clairvoyant being had been in a position to observe the earth through millennia then, it would have appeared that the entire aura of the earth suddenly changed color, radiated with different colors when the redeemer died on Golgotha. Ahura Mazdao, who had been proclaimed by Zarathustra, became at that time the elemental spirit of the earth. Christ expressed this when, at the Last Supper, he said: “This is my body” (Matt. 26:26) and, for the grape juice, found the expression, “This is my blood.” (Matt. 26:28)

If we really studied the earth we would have to see members of the spirit of Christ in everything that lives and grows, even in the smallest thing we look at. Human beings of the future will not speak of atoms; they will scientifically understand the earth as the expression of Christ.

We are standing only at the beginning of this development. Christ must first be understood in the simplest way. In the future all science will find Christ, even though it finds today nothing but a dead corpse-like existence in the sensible world. The fifth epoch can feel, to begin with, only as a perspective, that this new science is approaching, that humanity will understand in a new way what Zarathustra meant when he spoke of Ahura Mazdao.

The ancient wisdom of Zarathustra will appear again in a new form in the sixth age. Finally, the age of the holy Rishis will come again in a new form. There may be only a small band of people who understand Theosophy in our age; there may be only the smallest of groups present to hear the reenlivened wisdom of Zarathustra in the sixth age; and, finally there may be only a fraction remaining for the seventh age. The further course of human evolution will be such that more and more people will gather together who will understand what Zarathustra proclaimed.

Then an age will come upon the earth when the victors will be those who lead the war of all against all. But the souls who will have been preserved from the sixth age must found a new culture after the war of all against all. The seventh age will have neither people who glow with enthusiasm for the spiritual, nor those who glow with enthusiasm for sense existence; even for that these people will be too blase. Very little of the Indian, the first culture, will be perceptible on the earth in the seventh age. But these souls from the sixth age when earned up into the spiritual world, purified and “Christened, will walk as it were etherically, no longer touching the earth, while humanity then will be able to master what the entire culture of earth has to offer. The seventh age will be such that here below on the earth, people living in increasingly dense and hardened bodies will make the greatest discoveries and inventions. In the seventh age, human beings wholly entangled in matter will no longer have to fear much from Theosophy, for on earth there will no longer be much to find of those transformed human beings who will have increasingly spiritualized themselves in the sixth age by absorbing Theosophy. The people who have understood the call of the master today will be carried over into a distant future. The key will be turned in the sixth cultural epoch. Those who have heard the call will be the founders of a new humanity. If only a few people are entangled with matter, the community of Laodicea will not last long. It lies within the free will of every human being to belong to either the community of Philadelphia or the community of Laodicea.


Note 1. Compare the Berlin lecture of October 7, 1904 on “The Prometheus Saga,” in The Temple Legend (GA 93) (London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1985).

Note 2. Aeschylus (525 – 456 s.e.) was the most important founder of Attic tragedy and the oldest of the three great Greek writers of Greek tragedy. Quote comes from his trilogy “Prometheia.”

Note 3. Thales of Miletus, (ca. 625 – ca. 545 B.C.) was a Greek philosopher, one of the “seven wise men,” and one of the founders of philosophy.

Note 4. Heraclitus of Ephesus, (ca. 540 {544} – 480 {483 s.c.} was a Greek philosopher.

Note 5. Marcus Aurelius: (121 – 180 A.D.) also know as Marcus Aurelius, the Philosopher. was the Roman caesar from 161 A.D.; Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 B.C. – 65 A.D.) was a Roman politician, philosopher, and poet.

Note 6. Celsus: was a Greek philosopher of the second century. Around 180 he wrote “True Discourse” which was the first polemic against Christianity. It has been lost but the essence of its content is contained in Origen's response, Contra Celrum.

Note 7. Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626) was an English Renaissance philosopher. Benedictus Spinoza (1632 – 1677) was a Dutch philosopher.

Last Modified: 23-Mar-2018
The Rudolf Steiner Archive is maintained by:
The e.Librarian: elibrarian@elib.com