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Souls of the Nations

Souls of Nations: Third Lecture


At the beginning of this lecture there is a characterization more of the inner life and consciousness of the Archangels, i.e. the nation-spirits. It may be helpful once again if we recall what Dr. Steiner gave in his more special lectures on the Hierarchies. In the third lecture of the Spiritual Beings course (Helsingfors, 1912) he gives a fuller description of the ‘inner life’ of the third Hierarchy: Angels, Archangels and Archai. Compared to man, there is a kind of inversion in the relation of inner and outer. For what to man is the perception of the outer world, is to these Beings the revealing of their own nature. They perceive even as they reveal themselves; therefore also they cannot lie. Again, what to man is his own inner life — the brooding as it were in his own thoughts and memories and feelings — is to these Beings the being filled with Inspirations from a higher World, i.e. in a sense from outside themselves.

In the present lecture Dr. Steiner introduces us once more to the three members of the human soul (Sentient, Intellectual and Spiritual Soul) and says — though, as it seems to me, without explaining it in detail — that, corresponding to this, Archangels have three members, three modifications, as it were, of their etheric body. He does however now go on to explain more fully what the lives of human beings — human Egos — mean to the archangels as nation-spirits; how much of the inner life of man is of direct significance to them, within their ken. Man's outer sensations and perceptions of the physical world mean nothing to them, nor do his cravings and passions or his more narrow personal thoughts and pre-occupations. Therefore the sentient soul and the lower part of the intellectual soul-life of men are beyond the Archangels' immediate perception; they only begin to take note of man's inner life where he rises to pure thought and moral feeling — in the spiritual soul and in the higher functions of the intellectual or mind-soul, where in a fuller sense the spiritual being of the Ego finds expression. For this reason too, the mediation of the Angels is necessary between the Archangels and man; the Angels are far nearer to man's personal feelings, his joys and pains. They after all are still engaged in completing their transmutation of astral body into Manas or Spirit-Self, upon which task man too, now in the second half of earthly evolution, is at least beginning. This makes a closer bond between Man and Angel. Yet on the other hand the Angel also reaches up to higher worlds.

To the Archangels the human Egos — those, in particular, belonging to their several nations — are what the outer world of his perceptions is to man. Only the difference is that they perceive this — to them — outer world lighting up, as it were, from within themselves, yet are all the time aware that it is not their own being, but something else, objective to them, committed to their care. And as man feels the differentiation of outer objects — now rough, now smooth; now warm, now cold — so do they feel the difference of human Egos. The active ones with a rich inner life are ‘warm’ to them; empty, lethargic ones are ‘cold’; and so on. So too the Archangel perceives the youth and age, the rise and fall of peoples: the springing life as something that impels Him to ‘incarnate’ in such a people; the ageing of a people, their lessening of productivity as the occasion for His receding from them, retiring therefore into what for Him would correspond to our life between death and new birth in higher worlds, until the time arrives for Him to seek renewed embodiment in some other people.

In the latter part of the lecture we are told further of the relations of Archai (Time-Spirits), Archangels (nation-souls), Angels (the guardians of individual men on their way from life to life) and mankind. In the normal course the Spirit of the Time will give His behests to the Archangels of the different nations and these in turn will give them to the Angels, who transmit them to the souls of men. This can however be modified by the working-in of the abnormal Spirits or for other reasons. If the abnormal Archai (those who ‘intuit’ the thoughts of men in the way ascribed to them in the last lecture) intervene more strongly, the intentions of the nation-spirit will be partly cut across; groups will arise within the nation, feeling the urge of special tasks. Many such abnormal Spirits of Personality, says Rudolf Steiner for example, have worked for centuries within the German nation. “In the breaking-up of the one German nation into so many smaller parts and peoples, you see the interplay of the abnormal Spirits of Personality with the Archangel. Nations like this are little centralized — look more to the development of individuality. In some ways this is good, for a variety of shades within the national character can thus come to expression.”

But the normal Time-Spirit too many find it necessary to intervene more directly. Then it may happen that from the field of an Archangel — i.e. from out of a given nation — a portion is more or less suddenly cut off and in the course of History we see a new and distinct nation arise. Such outer reasons as are alleged are often quite inadequate to account for this. Two deeply interesting examples are given; they have, I think, more often been referred to and are to that extent better known than many other contents of this lecture-cycle. One is the detachment-of the Dutch from the German people about the beginning of modern time. Holland had a special task to perform, ‘for the over-seas mission of the Time-Spirit.’ The other is the severance of Portugal from Spain.

In such a case the Time-Spirit Himself creates a nation. After a time a normal and an abnormal Archangel-being will find the opportunity to incarnate in the people thus detached; language and national character become distinct.

At the conclusion of the lecture Dr. Steiner brings in a fresh theme, leading up to the important subject of races. Proceeding in the hierarchical order beyond the Spirits of Form (Exusiai), we come to the Spirits of Movement (Dynamis); beyond these again there are the Spirits of Wisdom (Kyriotetes), highest of the second Hierarchy. Now of the Spirits of Movement also, certain ones resigned their further evolution and from the old Moon-epoch onward remained behind at the stage of Spirits of Form, so that in some respects they are Spirits of Movement whereas in others, with regard to which they made this sacrifice, they are yet only Spirits of Form. These ‘abnormal Spirits of Movement,’ as Dr. Steiner generally names them, bring about — in their interplay with the normal Spirits of Form — the human races. We must not confuse race and nation. “A nation is not a race. The concept of nation has really nothing to do with that of race. A race may divide into the most varied nations. We rightly speak of a German, a Dutch, and a Norwegian nation, and yet withal of a Germanic race. ...”

We need this background too — the spiritual understanding of the races — so as to know more fully what a nation is. Racial differentiations obviously go more deeply into the physical; therefore too, after the well-known principle, the spiritual source of them takes us far higher up among the Hierarchies.

By virtue of the normal Spirits of Form there would be — and indeed there is — one common Humanity over the whole Earth's round. By virtue of these abnormal Spirits (Spirits of Form or of Movement, whichever we may choose to call them), mankind is differentiated into races. With this thought the third lecture closes.

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