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Souls of the Nations

Souls of Nations: Eleventh, Closing Lecture

ELEVENTH, CLOSING LECTURE

Dr. Steiner begins by saying, only the very, very least of what the subject of the course contains or calls for, has been able to be included in this short time; he hopes to come again and to continue, at any rate on kindred subjects. He then expresses about the Scandinavian folk-spirit what is repeatedly indicated in these last lectures. It is, that through the Scandinavian people especially, Spiritual Science might become volkstümlich. I am really at a loss to translate this word. It means ‘popular’ not in the superficial, rather trivial sense in which we mostly understand the term, but in the sense of being united with the life-forces of a ‘folk,’ — of an entire people, — permeating all its culture from the bottom upward, finding expression as it were in song and ballad, in laughter and in tears, in work and play.

The Norse mythology, says Dr. Steiner, reveals how their folk-spirit has retained in a childlike form deep wisdom which is one day destined to find expression in a maturer and more conscious form. And this in turn would tend to ‘popularize’ — in the best sense of the word — what is to-day finding expression in a more sublimated, philosophic form: our modern Spiritual Science.

Further examples are now given of how the pictures of Germanic and Norse mythology contain the truths of Occult Science. Dr. Steiner refers, for the first time explicitly, to what was certainly in the background of the great race-creating process outlined in the fourth and sixth lectures. It is described at some length, in Occult Science and in other lectures, how the great majority of human souls, about the time when the Sun had left the Earth, could not abide the hardening conditions but rose to other planets, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars, Venus and Mercury; and how these souls, in late Lemuria and afterwards all through Atlantis, — after the hardening forces of the Moon had left the Earth — came back again and entered human bodies, for the first time under the Earth-conditions now obtaining. Such, broadly speaking, was the ‘first incarnation’ of every one of us, for human life on Earth — or, should we say, about the Earth — before the severance of Sun and Moon was not yet incarnation in the proper sense. A very wonderful event it must have been, this virginal descent, when we were yet unburdened with earthly Karma. Now through the watery mists of Atlantis, says Rudolf Steiner, those on the Earth clairvoyantly beheld this descent of souls out of the Cosmos, their union with earthly bodies, which happened not at arbitrary times but sacredly, in cosmic time and season. Of this, the Northern worship of the Goddess Nerthus — Tacitus relates it — her carriage drawn into the waters, was a remembrance.

In a most wonderful Christmas lecture of the year 1916 — not yet published, but other lecturers, Dr. Wegman and Dr. Stein among them, have told of it — Dr. Steiner spoke of the Nerthus-mysteries in greater detail and of their deep relation to the Archangel of the Annunciation, the Gabriel of St. Luke's Gospel. Their centre was in Southern Jutland.

The special virtue of the Northern soul, and of the education it received from this Folk-spirit of the North, was to begin man's evolution down on the physical plane, very directly inspired by the preceding stage of clairvoyant wisdom. Northern peoples therefore feel their Gods — not only Odin and Thor but others too — as those who help them forge on Earth the magic tools, transplanting into earthly forms of skill erstwhile clairvoyant powers. Thus Freyer and his sister Freya, Angel-beings, of the Wanen. “Within the physical world, the world restricted to the outer senses, Freyer was the continuer of all that had hitherto been received in a clairvoyant form.” What springs out of the body of the Earth was to the Northern imagination Jotunheim, [Jotunheim: our edition here repeats the modern German, Riesenheim, as used by Dr. Steiner.] the home of giants. Therefore was Freyer wedded to the giant's daughter, Gerd. His horse was Bluthuf, for through the blood the Spirit comes to Earth. His magic ship, which could be folded up into a tiny box and then again unfold its sails as wide as Heaven, pictures the alternation of the soul in day and night. Into the convolutions of the brain, into the tiny skull, the soul must fold its wings in the day-waking state.

Now Dr. Steiner goes on to speak, as he most often did at the conclusion of a lecture-course during those years, of Christ's second coming. Since the year 1899 A.D. the dark age, Kali Yuga, is at an end. Increasingly in the next centuries there will be people naturally gifted with a new kind of etheric clairvoyance, even though they have not undergone occult training. It will for instance take the form that at important moments in their life they will see before them in a kind of dream-vision scenes of a future time on Earth. The Karmic balance, the future Karmic counterpart of their own present deeds, will be made visible to them in the ether-world. This heightened sensitiveness to Karmic justice — an enhancement of what has hitherto only lived in man in the dim feeling of conscience — will also lead to the perception of the living Christ in the ether-world. For Christ is now the Lord of Karma. (Of all this, we may read more fully in the well-known lecture-cycle From Jesus to Christ, given the following year, 1911.) During the next 3,000 years, these experiences in mankind will grow, and will become ever more frequent.

Dr. Steiner warns his hearers of a variety of dangers. What he reiterates at considerable length in the remainder of this lecture must be understood upon the background of the controversy which was then rising to a climax in the Theosophical Society. A ‘second coming’ of Christ in the more physical sense was being spoken of; at the same time Dr. Steiner was attacked for giving too much prominence to Western, specifically Christian doctrine. He emphasizes here that what is taught out of true Occultism must not proceed from sympathies or antipathies, or from a preference for East or West, or a desire to appease existing prejudices. All this he goes into most carefully, as it were out of a deep anxiety that he be rightly understood. He points out that there are no dogmatic premises — Christian or of any other kind — in Rosicrucian teaching. He pleads that it be not taken dogmatically on his or any other person's authority. It asks to be received freely and with open judgment, applied to life, tested by the facts of life itself. All that is given out of true sources can await this test. The Rose-Cross does not seek to perpetuate the Christianity of the past or to set up existing forms or dogmas as a standard; it seeks to bring about the Christianity of the future which will outgrow mistakes and limitations of the past.

There is a twofold danger. Whereas the old materialism of the West will simply dismiss the new Christ-experience as fantastic, another kind of materialism, not understanding that the Christ at His new coming must appear in a different form, will look for His return in a physical body as before. Dr. Steiner speaks of the tragedy of false Messiahs past and future — one Sabbatai Zewi of Smyrna, for example, who appeared in the 17th century.

Of yet another danger Dr. Steiner warns his hearers — which we may feel very immediately at this moment. He turns again to the Germanic vision of the future, Ragnarök, the ‘Twilight of the Gods.’ The forces of the old Gods alone will not avail. Thor and the Midgard snake destroy each other; Odin does not prevail against the Fenris wolf. Freyer is overcome by earth-born Surtur.

Dark and confusing relics of the old clairvoyance, says Dr. Steiner, will be the Fenris-wolf of the future, fraught with appalling dangers. New faculties however have arisen in mankind during the long intervening period of Kali Yuga; these, now maturing in a healthy way and giving birth to the new spiritual sight, will alone have power to recognise and overcome the darkness. Germanic and Scandinavian mythology knows of these future forces and of the Divine Being who is to come. “It knows indeed that that ethereal Form is living, wherein shall be embodied what we are now to see again: ‘Christ in etheric form.’ He alone will succeed in driving out dark and impure clairvoyant powers which would confuse mankind. ... Widar who has been silent until now, — Widar will overcome the Fenris wolf. Whoever recognizes Widar's meaning, whoever feels Him in his soul, will find that in the 20th century the power to see the Christ can indeed be given to man again. ...” In Scandinavian and Mid-European Mysteries and occult schools of the past, says, Dr. Steiner, “Widar was held in secret, — the God who should await His future mission.”

In a significant way, towards the end of the lecture, Rudolf Steiner speaks once more of the approaching mission of the Scandinavian folk-soul, and, looking farther forward, of what must subsequently be achieved by Slavonic peoples. Only a part of what will have to be given for the development of all mankind during the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, has yet been able to be given. “The Germanic-Scandinavian Archangel ... has the inherent power to achieve this: that what was not yet able to be given in the first half of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch may be accomplished in the second half, namely that spiritual element which we were able to recognize in a germinal, prophetic form in the philosophy and in the feeling of the common folk among the Slavs.”

Let every one, says Rudolf Steiner in conclusion — each individual, each nation or even scattered fragment of a nation — develop what he has to give and give it candidly, sincerely, — individually. This will be truest tolerance. Then will the several tongues of flame mount up together into one great flame upon the altar, the united progress of mankind. So then he calls again for ‘self-knowledge of nations,’ in a sincere spirit wherein pettiness and envy melt away. Often the smallest peoples “have most important contributions to make, since it is given to them to preserve and nurture old or new motifs in the soul's life.” The spiritual movement in which we are is destined to unite mankind; yes, most assuredly, it will bring about an end of all divisions.

Towards the end of the long chapter, ‘Evolution of the World and Man,’ in the Outline of Occult Science there is a passage bearing upon this, impressive in its simplicity, and with it we may fitly close these pages. The feeling to which Dr. Steiner here appeals — the feeling for the unity of all mankind and for the power of harmony through individuality — is indeed living in the humanity of to-day. It is a deeply rooted faith and will withstand the terrific onslaughts that are now being made upon it, — though in the trial it will have to find itself anew. For it is rooted in the Christ-Impulse which has been working in mankind ever since the Mystery of Golgotha. This, Rudolf Steiner tells us, was the first phase in the Christ-ideal to be brought home to the inner understanding of mankind. For in effect, “all that was poured into human evolution through the coming of Christ, worked in it like a seed. Only by degrees can the seed ripen ... We are only at the beginning of Christian evolution. In the successive epochs that have elapsed since His appearance, it could unveil of its inner essence only so much as men and nations were able to receive, — to assimilate to their powers of understanding.”

In old Lemuria and Atlantis, after the separation of the Moon when Earth was being newly peopled from the planets, mankind became divided into racial and other spiritually founded groupings. Diversities celestial in origin (as Dr. Steiner said again in the letter quoted on page 30) became more deeply stamped in the material body; became the heavy load of Karma — not only individual but group-Karma — separating men. “While this was working itself out, there could not be the ideal of ‘universal humanity.’ Mankind had gone forth from unity in the beginning, but Earth-evolution hitherto had led to separation.

“In the idea of Christ there is first given an ideal to counteract all separation; in the Man who bears the name of Christ the forces of the sublime Being of the Sun are living, and in these forces every human ‘I’ will find its source and its foundation. Even the Israelites still felt themselves a nation, — the human being a member of the nation. By grasping — to begin with, purely in the thought — that in Christ the ideal Man was living, beyond the reaches of all separation, Christianity grew to the ideal of a universal brotherhood. Beyond all separate interests and kinships there arose the feeling that, the inmost Self of man has the same origin in every one Reside all earthly ancestors appears-the common Father of all men. ‘I and the Father are One.’“




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