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Concerning the Origin and Nature of the Finnish Nation

A Lecture By
Rudolf Steiner
Dornach, November 9, 1914
GA 158

A lecture delivered by Rudolf Steiner at Dornach on the 9th of November, 1914, and part of Steiner's Lectures to Members. From stenographic notes, unrevised by the lecturer. This lecture is from a Cycle of Lectures entitled: “Man's Connection with the Elemental Worlds. Finland and the ‘Kalevala’”, 9th, 14th and 15th of November, 1914. Lecture 6 of 12 from the volume: The Human's Connection with the Elemental World The volume of the Complete Edition of the works of Rudolf Steiner containing the original text of the this lecture, among eleven others, is entitled: Der Zusammenhang des Menschen mit der Elementarischen Welt. Kalewala. Olaf Asteson. Das russische Volkstum. Die Welt als Ergebnis von Gleichgewichtswirkungen. (No. 158 in the Bibliographical Survey, 1961).

This English edition of the following lecture is published by permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland.

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Anthroposophic News Sheet

PUBLISHED BY THE GENERAL ANTHROPOSOPHIC SOCIETY, DORNACH, SWITZERLAND
FOR MEMBERS ONLY


17th of March, 1940. No. 11/12 8th Year.

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CONCERNING THE ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE FINNISH NATION.

By Dr. Rudolf Steiner.

From a Cycle of Lectures entitled: “Man's Connection with the Elemental Worlds. Finland and the ‘Kalevala’”, 9th, 14th and 15th of November, 1914.

If there is a sphere in the human soul that really constitutes a kind of triad, which, in the case of modern man, is, as it were, covered by his ordinary consciousness, we should also be able to find in evolution a stage that reveals this outwardly; that is to say, a stage in which the soul really feels its threefold nature and in which the three members of the soul appear separately. In other words: A nation must once have existed that felt these soul-parts separately, in such a way that the “one-ness” was, after all, felt within the soul far less than the “threefold-ness”, and so that this threefold nature of the soul was still thought of in connection with the cosmos.

Such a nation really existed in Europe and it left behind an important monument of culture, concerning which I have already spoken to you. This nation once experienced within the soul the soul's threefold character — and just there, where it should exist — and this was the Finnish nation. This stage of culture is expressed in the epic poem “Kalevala”. What is set forth in “Kalevala”, contains a clear consciousness of the soul’s threefold nature. Thus, the ancient seers, upon whose visionary power the “Kalevala” is based, felt: “The world contains an inspiring element and one of the members of my soul is connected with it; my sentient soul receives its impulses from there.” This nation, or these ancient seers, experienced the inspiring element of the sentient soul almost as a human-divine, or a human-heroic essence, and they called it “Wainamoinen”. This is nothing but the inspiring element of the sentient soul, inspiring it from out [of] the cosmos, and all the destinies of Wainamoinen, described in “Kalevala”, express the fact that this form of consciousness once existed in a nation that was widely spread in the north-eastern territory of Europe, a nation that experienced the three parts of the soul separately and felt that the sentient soul was inspired by Wainamoinen.

In the same way, this nation, or these ancient seers, felt that the understanding soul was, as it were, a special member of the soul, that receives its forging impulses — or that which forges within the soul and builds it up — from another Being, called Ilmarinen. Just as in the Kalevala Wainamoinen corresponds to the sentient soul, so Ilmarinen corresponds to the understanding soul. If you read my lecture on “Kalevala”, you will find in it all these explanations.

In the same way, that nation, or those ancient seers (but we must bear in mind the fact that the consciousness-soul was, at that time, experienced as something that enabled the human being to be a conqueror upon the physical plane) experienced that Lemminkainen was a Being connected with the powers of the physical plane, an elemental, heroic Being, the inspirator of the consciousness-soul. Thus, if we speak in accordance with other epic poems, we may say that these three heroic characters come from the Finnish nation and inspire the threefold nature of the soul.

Wonderful is the relationship between Ilmarinen and what is being forged there. I have already pointed out that in “Kalevala” the human being is forged out of the various elements of Nature. In “Kalevala”, this Being, forged, as it were, out of all the atoms of Nature, the Being that is pulverised, and then forged together, is described in a marvellous picture as the forging of Sampo. The fact that once upon a time the human being was really formed out of these three soul-parts and then passed over, as it were, into a “pralaya”, in order to emerge again later on, all this is described in “Kalevala” in the part where Sampo is lost and found again: it is, as it were, the re-discovery of something over which the darkness of consciousness was first spread out.

Let us now imagine that in the south, or rather in the southeast, another nation faces the Finnish nation, one that developed in ancient times the soul-qualities mentioned to you: a uniform character of the soul, a soul-element expressing this uniform character in the qualities of its character, feeling and temperament. This nation is a Slav nation, influenced by Scythianos, who lived in the remote past for some time in the environment of the ancient Scythian nation. However, a nation living in the neighbourhood of a centre of initiation need not at all be a highly developed nation, but instead, the necessary things must take place in the course of evolution. With the penetration of the Graeco-Byzantine culture into Slavism, a particular form of the Mystery of Golgotha also penetrated into it. What I have indicated, here, as the centre of the Graeco-Byzantine culture, may be taken, if you like, as Constantinople on the map of Europe, for it is, after all, Constantinople.

Thus we have before us souls impregnated with a fundamentally Slav type, souls that are, on the one hand, connected with something that can lead, through the Mystery of Golgotha, to a uniform soul-essence and may thus prepare these souls having a uniform character for Christianity, and on the other hand, these souls take up the Mystery of Golgotha in a very definite form, resembling an inspiration or an influence coming from the Mystery of Golgotha, in the form in which it went out of the Graeco-Byzantine culture.

But something else must now take place. The following thing must, as it were, come from a certain point. — The separation that existed in the Finnish nation, the division of the three soul-parts, set forth so wonderfully in “Kalevala”, must now be obliterated. This can only be obliterated through an influence from outside; it can only be obliterated through the circumstance of an advancing nation, or part of nation, predisposed from the very outset to experience within the soul its “one-ness”, not its “threefold-ness”, but this “one-ness” is not the one obtained through the Mystery of Golgotha, but a kind that this nation possessed through its own nature. If we study the Finnish nation, we shall find that it is particularly disposed to develop the consciousness of the soul’s threefold character; this threefold character and its connection with the cosmos cannot be expressed more significantly than it has been expressed in “Kalevala”. But in the north, this had to be whitewashed, it had to be clouded over, as it were, by something that obliterates the consciousness of the soul’s threefold nature. And so a race descends, that bears within its soul, in a natural form, the strivings after unity, in the manner in which they existed at that time — expressed in an entirely different way and on an entirely different stage in “Faust”, in Goethe's “Faust”, and in the character of Faust, in general — it bears within its soul something that entirely ignores the soul’s threefold nature, striving after the unity of the Ego. At this still primitive stage, it has a destructive effect upon the three soul-members.

But the Finnish nation was of such a kind that it could still feel in a natural way the streaming forces that penetrated into the soul’s “threefoldness”, obliterating it. (Otherwise it would not have been able to experience these three members of the soul). This streaming-element, forcing its way into the soul, was experienced as a threefold R, as RRR. And just because it was experienced as something which in occult language is best of all expressed in the letters, or in the sound “UUO”, inducing one to say, it comes along, and one should really be afraid of it — it now streams along as a breath in the sound “RRRUUO” and becomes, rooted in what is always experienced through the “TAO” (T), when it penetrates into the human soul. In the case of the ancient divinity Jehova, the penetration into the human soul was expressed with the sound “S”, or the Hebrew “Shin”, and the penetrating element in general is expressed, with the “S” sound. This is connected with the element that penetrates into the soul. What takes root in the soul, tends towards the sound “I”, (pronounced EE), whose significance is well known. Consequently, the Finnish nation experienced this in the sound “RUOTSI”, and for this reason it called the descending nations the “RUTSI” (Ruotsi). The Slavs then gradually adopted this name, and because they connected themselves with that element, penetrating, as the Finns called it, downwards from above, they also called themselves “Rutsi”, which afterwards became the name of the “Russians”.

Thus you may see that the external events described in history had to take place. The fact that the nations that were settled down here, below, called in the Warager tribes — in reality, they were Norman-German tribes who had to connect themselves with the Slav tribes — is entirely connected with something that had to take place; it had to occur, in accordance with the constitution of the human soul. In the East of Europe thus arose later on that element which penetrated into the nations of Europe as the Russian element, the Russian nation. The Russian element therefore contains all those things which I mentioned: it contains, above all, a Norman-German element, and this lives in the name from which the name “Russians” descends, for it has arisen in the way described just now.

The “Kalevala” expresses in a deep way that the greatness of the Finnish nation is based on the fact that it really prepares the “one-ness”, or the unity within the triad; by obliterating the soul’s threefold character it prepares the acceptance of that unity which is no longer a purely human unity, but a divine one, in which dwells the godly hero of the Mystery of Golgotha.

In order that a group of men may take up what comes towards it, it must first be prepared for this. We may, thus, gain an impression of all that had to occur inwardly, in order that the things, which we then encounter inwardly, may arise in the course of development. I explained to you that “Kalevala” expresses in a wonderful way the truth that the Finnish nation had to supply this preparation, in view of the fact that the Mystery of Golgotha is introduced in a strange way at the end of the poem. Christ appears at the end of “Kalevala”, but because he throws his impulse into Finnish life, Wainamoinen abandons the country, and this expresses that the originally great and significant element that penetrated into Europe through the Finnish element, was a preparatory stage for Christianity and took up Christianity like a message from outside.

Just as an individual human being must be prepared in an extraordinarily complicated manner, as it were, so that his soul may find from various sides what it requires, in order to live within a definite incarnation, so it is also the case with nations. A nation is not an entirely uniform, homogeneous element, but something in which many elements flow together. All manner of things have flown together in the nation that lived yonder in the East. Indeed, we may say that everything of an inwardly spiritual character is, at the same time, indicated outwardly, even though it is only indicated slightly. I said that in this nation we must look out for a soul-tribe leading upwards from below; respectively, also downwards from above, in the case of a connecting soul-tribe. This was actually the case, for a powerful stream, a great road went from the Black Sea to the Finnish Bay and along this road an exchange took place between the Graeco-Byzantine element and that which constituted the natural element of the “Rutsi”.

*

Last time I told you that Europe’s Eastern culture was preceded, let us say, by a cultural stratum in which the human beings were constituted in such a way that they still possessed in their souls something that has more withdrawn into subconscious spheres in the case of modern man, and that they experienced in their ordinary life something like a division of the soul into sentient soul, understanding soul and consciousness-soul.

I explained to you that the men belonging to the once great Finnish nation (the present one is only a remnant of the formerly great and widely spread nation) had souls that possessed, in addition to a certain ancient form of clairvoyance, in their immediate daytime experience, something like a scission of the soul into sentient soul, understanding soul and consciousness-soul.

I told you that in the magnificent epic poem “Kalevala” the three characters Wainamoinen, Ilmarinen and Lemminkainen express how this threefold soul is structured and guided from out the cosmos.

How could such a thing take place? How was it possible that a great nation could develop at a certain place in Europe, a nation whose soul was of the kind described to you?

That the human being develops his true Ego, the gift of the earth, depends upon the fact that the spirits of the earth influence him from below, through the Maya of earthly substance. The spirits of the earth work from below, through the solid earth, as it were, and in our time these spirits of the earth are essentially used for the purpose of calling forth in the human being his Ego-nature.

When something that lies below the Ego-nature rays into a nation such as the old Finnish nation, something more spiritual than the Ego-nature and more strongly connected with the divine forces, (for, if the soul feels itself split into three, it is more strongly connected with the divine powers than if this is not the case) then not only the earthly element, with its elemental spirits, can, in a certain way, ray into man’s earthly part from below, but something else must ray into this earthly element, another elemental influence must ray into it.

Just as man’s physical existence is intimately connected with the spirit of the earth — in so far as this existence is an earthly one and in so far as he develops his Ego within it — that is to say, with the spirits working upwards from below, from the earth itself, so man’s soul-element, revealing itself as an existence connected with his nature, temperament, character and soul, is related with everything that lives upon the earth in the form of watery element, of liquid, element.

Consequently, these souls that are split into three parts must be influenced by spirits pertaining to the watery, to the liquid element. The essential element of our time is the earthly element, the Ego-forming element. When another element penetrates into us, for instance the watery element, then it penetrates more from out the spiritual world. It is not contained in the human being himself. It must, as it were, penetrate into man as a spiritual being, so that man’s earthly nature may obtain something that leads him into the spiritual world.

Suppose that the surface of this blackboard represents that out of which come the elemental forces of the earth; in that case, a spiritual element that seeks to penetrate in there, must come out of the organism of the earth itself out of something that is, in itself, spiritual: a Being must be there, a real Being, that is not the human being, but inspires the human being, as it were, to experience the threefold split of his soul. Consequently, a being must be there that influences the soul from out [of] the spirituality of Nature in such a way that the sentient soul, the understanding soul and the consciousness-soul separate and so that the souls are really able to say: My sentient soul is influenced from out Nature by a force resembling Wainamoinen; it streams towards me like a being of Nature and endows me with the force of the sentient soul. But that is still another influence, resembling Ilmarinen, that endows me with the forces of the understanding-soul, and there is moreover something that resembles Lemminkainen, endowing me with the forces of the consciousness-soul. If HERE, at this place, *) we have a being stretching out, as it were, its feelers into Nature, almost through a kind of neck, if a being that has, as it were, its chief group-body HERE, at this place, and that stretches out its feelers in such a way that we have one of them here, together with the sentient soul, a second feeler there, and a third one there, then this being of Nature would have a body and its soul-part would penetrate, as if with soul-feelers, into these places, in order to exercise an inspiring influence — and there, etheric bodies can arise, that enable the soul to feel itself split into three.

The ancient Finnish population used to say: We live here, yet we feel something resembling three powerful beings, that do not belong to the physical plane, but are beings of Nature. They reveal themselves, coming from the West; they are three parts, almost organs of one might being, whose body lives yonder, but that stretches out its feelers in this direction. (Wainamoinen, Ilmarinen, Lemminkainen.) A powerful OCEAN-BEING spreads from west to east; it stretches out its feelers and endows this nation with that which constitutes the threefold soul.

The nations who still experienced this, felt and spoke in this way, and also “Kalevala” speaks in this manner, as explained just now. Modern man, who merely lives upon the physical plane, says that the western sea stretches out as far as this place: Here is the Gulf of Bothnia, the Finnish Gulf and the Gulf of Riga. But in trying to gain an insight into the spiritual essence of the external physical aspect, we simply take together what appears to us like a transverse section of Nature: we take together the following things and say: There is still a great quantity of water, there below; beyond there is the air; man breathes in the air, and this ocean world is a great powerful being that is simply structured in a different way than the one to which we are accustomed. What is spread out over there is a powerful being, and the human beings belonging to that older race were connected with it in a very marked, and distinctly outlined way. And when we speak of Folk-Souls, these Folk-Souls have in the elemental spirits that exist in countless of these soul-expressions, the instruments through which they can work. They organise, as it were, an army in order to penetrate with their influence as far as the etheric body, and to mould man, through the etheric body, in such away that his physical body becomes an instrument for that which is to be his particular and special mission upon the earth.

We can understand culture, even in its relation to man, only if we can contemplate the forms that we encounter in Nature as an expression of the spirit, we can understand it, if we do not contemplate the sea and land boundaries in the usual thoughtless manner, but if we are able to understand what these forms express. Someone who sees the face of a person might say, for instance: The face has certain definite forms; flesh and air contact one another. But if he describes it in this way, it will be difficult to know what the face was really like. We can only understand it if we consider it as the expression, as the countenance of the human being. Similarly, in the above-mentioned case, we can only grasp things if we consider them as the physiognomy of a powerful being that stretches certain parts of its principal body out of the ocean that stretches out this part of its physiognomy.

Indeed, many things occur below the threshold of consciousness and the Spirits of Form have not in vain set definite forms into Nature. It is possible to grasp the meaning of these forms. They are the expression of an inner being. And if we become the pupils of the Spirits of Form, we ourselves can create forms expressing that which lives in the inner being of Nature and of the Spirit.

*

I explained to you that there is a certain relationship in which East and West work together, in which the liquid element leans towards the East, as if it were a powerful Being and, as an expression of the threefold nature of the soul, it leans over in the three great Bays, that were still experienced by the more spiritual nations of ancient Finland as Wainamoinen, Ilmarinen and Lemminkainen, and are to-day designated so prosaically as the Finnish, the Bothnian and the Riga Bays. What comes out of the liquid and out of the solid elements, worked together in the Finnish nation. Within it were united the element that moulds more the etheric part of man and refines his physical part, namely, the liquid element, and the element of the earth, or that which comes out of the earth and forms the physical part of man.

We might now ask: What significance has the fact that a nation that fulfilled so eminent a mission in the course of the earth’s evolution as that of the great Finnish nation, should still exist after having accomplished its task? The fact that such a nation remains, that it does not disappear after having fulfilled its mission, has its meaning within the whole progress of evolution. Just as a human being preserves in his living memory, for his subsequent life, the thoughts which he formed at some earlier time of life, so the nations of a past time must remain, almost like a conscience, like a living memory that continues to be active in the face of what happens later — LIKE A CONSCIENCE.

Now we might say: The conscience of Eastern Europe is the force that preserved the Finnish nation. But a time must come when the understanding for the tasks of evolution will take hold of human hearts, when the ideas of “Kalevala” will begin to blossom from out the midst of the Finnish nation itself, when this wonderful epic poem will be spiritualised and permeated with modern anthroposophical ideas, so that it will once more reach, in all its depth, the consciousness of the whole of Europe.

The European nations revered Homer’s epic poems. Yet the “Kalevala” streamed out of still deeper sources of the soul’s life. This cannot as yet be grasped. But it will be grasped, when the teachings of Anthroposophy will be used in a corresponding way, in order to explain the spiritual phenomena of the evolution of the earth. An epic poem such as “Kalevala”, cannot be preserved unless it is preserved in a living form of existence; it cannot be preserved without souls that dwell in human bodies, souls that are related with the creative forces of “Kalevala.” “Kalevala” remains as a living conscience. Its influence can continue, because, not the words, but that which lives in the poem itself, continues to live. Its influence can continue through the fact that a centre exists, from which it may ray out. The essential thing is that this centre should be there, in the same way in which the thoughts that we have had at some earlier time of our life, still exist later on in life.




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