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Olaf Oesteson: The Awakening of the Earth Spirit

Olaf Oesteson: The Awakening of the Earth Spirit

Schmidt Number: S-2678

On-line since: 8th April, 2017

Olaf Oesteson: The Awakening of the Earth Spirit

Rudolf Steiner Archive Document

Lectures Section

This lectures was given by Rudolf Steiner in January of 1913 at Berlin. It is the 4th of 12 lectures from the lecture series entitled, The Human's Connection with the Elemental World, and the 3rd of 4 lectures in the series entitled, Olaf Asteson and the Awakening of the Earth Spirit. It has been published in German as, Der Zusammenhang des Menschen Mit der Elementarischen Welt. Kalewala. Olaf Asteson. Das russische Volkstum. Die Welt als Ergebnis von Gleichgewichtswirkungen.

By Rudolf Steiner

The translator is unknown
Bn 158.1; GA 158; CW 158

This lectures was given by Rudolf Steiner in January of 1913 at Berlin. It is the 4th of 12 lectures from the lecture series entitled, The Human's Connection with the Elemental World, and the 3rd of 4 lectures in the series entitled, Olaf Asteson and the Awakening of the Earth Spirit. It has been published in German as, Der Zusammenhang des Menschen Mit der Elementarischen Welt. Kalewala. Olaf Asteson. Das russische Volkstum. Die Welt als Ergebnis von Gleichgewichtswirkungen.

This lecture is presented here with the kind permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland. From Bn 158.1, GA 158, CW 158.

This e.Text edition is provided through the wonderful work of:
Various e.Text Transcribers

Thanks to a donation by the Los Angeles Rudolf Steiner Library, this Lecture has been made available.

7th January, 1913
Berlin

The period from about Christmas to the present date (Jan. 7th) is really an important and significant period of the year, also in an occult connection. It is called “The period of the Thirteen Days.” The remarkable thing is that the importance of these thirteen days is felt by those who through the constitution of their souls have preserved an inkling of the ancient connection of the human soul with the spiritual world, of which we have often spoken. We know that the primitive human being who lives in the country or in a community which is little infected by our town life, preserves more of the connection with the spiritual world which existed in ancient times than one belonging to a town.We find many things in folk-poems regarding experiences of the soul during the period from Christmas Eve to Epiphany, Jan.6th.

This is the time when — after darkness has been greatest over the earth, directly after the winter solstice, when the sun again begins his victorious course, — together with the deepest immersion and subsequent liberation and redemption of nature, — the human soul can also have special experiences if it still has a definite connection with the spiritual world. Those who o longer possess the old clairvoyance, but who in their souls are still connected with the spiritual world, perceive a difference in the abnormal world of dreams at this period of the year. What the soul can then experience is important, because the soul — if it is still susceptible — can then really penetrate best into the spiritual world. To the modern man the course of the year is such that he can no longer distinguish the various seasons of the year; for while the snowstorms rage outside, when the darkness descends about 4 p.m. and it grows light late in the morning, the city man feels the same as in the summer months when the sun develops its greatest power. Man has been torn out of his ancient connection with the Cosmos in which he lived when he was outside in nature. To those however who have kept in touch with nature, what happens at Christmas time is not the same as what takes place at some other time in the year, for example, at midsummer. Whereas at midsummer the soul is most emancipated from what is connected with the spiritual world, at the time when nature has died away the most it is connected with the spiritual world and formerly had special experiences during this time.

Now there is a beautiful folk-poem in the old Norwegian language, a poem which was re-discovered a short time ago and has quickly become popular again owing to the peculiarly sympathetic understanding of the Norwegian people. It treats of a man who was still in connection with the spiritual world, — Olaf Oesteson. What he goes through in the time between Christmas and Epiphany is beautifully described in this poem. At the New Year Festival in Hanover on Jan. 1st, 1912, I tried to put this folk-poem “Olaf Oesteson” into German verse, so that it might come before our souls too. We will begin this evening with the song of Olaf Oesteson, which contains his experiences during the “Thirteen Nights.”


The Dream Song

O listen to my song!
I will sing to thee
Of a certain youth:
This was Olaf Oesteson,
who once slept so long.
Of him I sing to thee.

He went to rest on Christmas Eve.
A deep sleep fell upon him soon,
And he could not awake,
Till on the thirteenth day
The people went to Church.
This was Olaf Oesteson,
Who once slept for so long,
Of him I sing to thee.

He went to rest on Christmas Eve:
Long, long did he sleep!
And he could not awake,
Till the thirteenth day
The birds were spreading their wings.
This was Olaf Oesteson,
Who once slept for so long
Of him will I sing to thee.

Olaf could not awake
Till on the thirteenth day
The sun shone o'er the mountains
Then did he saddle his nimble steed,
And rode to the church in haste.
This was Olaf Oesteson,
Who once slept for so long,
Of him will I sing to thee.

The priest already stood
By the altar saying mass.
When by the church-door Olaf seated himself
To give tidings of many dreams,
Which during this long sleep
Had filled his soul.
This was Olaf Oesteson,
who once slept so long.
Of him I sing to thee.

Young folk and old ones too,
Give heed unto the words
Which Olaf speaks about his dreams.
This was Olaf Oesteson,
who once slept so long.
Of him I sing to thee.

II

I went to rest on Christmas Eve,
A deep sleep soon enveloped me;
And I could not awake,
Till on the thirteenth day
The people went to church.
Brightly shone the moon
And the paths stretched far away.

Up to the clouds was I lifted,
And flung to the depths of the sea.
Mirth cannot fall upon
ONe who follow me.
Brightly shone the moon
And the paths stretched far away.

Up to the clouds was I lifted
And thrust into dismal swamps,
beheld the terrors of hell
And also the light of heaven.
Brightly shone the moon
and the paths stretched far away.

Into earth's depths did I journey,
Where streams of Gods roar frightfully,
To look at them I was not able,
But I could hear their roaring.
Brightly shone the moon
And the paths stretched far away.

My black steed did not neigh,
And my dogs did not bark,
Nor did the bird of morning sing;
There was but one marvel everywhere.
Brightly shone the moon
And the paths stretched far away.

My spirit-land I had to travel o'er
The wide plane of a thorny heath,
And also the nails on my feet.
Brightly shone the moon
And the paths stretched far away.

I came to Gjaller-Bridge
It hangs high up in windy heights;
It is covered with red gold
and has nails with sharp points.
Brightly shone the moon
And the paths stretched far away.

The ghostly snake did strike me,
The ghostly hound did bite me.
The bull, he stood across the way
These are three beasts of the bridge:
Of frightfully evil nature are they.
Brightly shone the moon
And the paths stretched far away.

The dog to bite is ready
The snake desires to sting,
The bull, he threatens violence:
They let none pass across the bridge
Who will not honour truth.
Brightly shone the moon
And the paths stretched far away.

I went across the bridge
Narrow it is, and makes one dismay.
I had to wade through swamps ...
They lie behind me now!
Brightly shone the moon
And the paths stretched far away.

I had to wade in swamps,
Bottomless did they seem.
When I passed o'er the bridge,
I felt earth in my mouth —
Like the dead who lie in the grave.
Brightly shone the moon
And the paths stretched far away.

III

Then I came to waters
In which, like blue flames,
Masses of ice gleaned bright.
And God my purpose guided,
So that I shunned that region.
Brightly shone the moon
And the paths stretched far away.

I turned my steps to the winter-path
On the right could I perceive it. —
I looked as into Paradise,
That threw its light afar.
Brightly shone the moon
And the paths stretched far away.

And the holy Mother of God —
I saw her there in radiance!
She made no travel to Brooksvaline:
Saying that there men's souls are judged!
Brightly shone the moon
And the paths stretched far away.

IV

In other worlds I tarried
Through the length of many nights;
And God alone can know
How much distress of soul I saw
In Brooksvaline, where souls
The Day of Judgment undergo.

A young man there I saw,
Who had recklessly a boy had killed:
Now he must carry him eternally
In his own arms!
He stood deep in mire,
In Brooksvaline, where souls
The Day of Judgment undergo.

Also an old man did I see,
He wore a cloak as though of lead.
Thus was he punished, because he
In avarice had lived on earth.
In Brooksvaline, where souls
The Day of Judgment undergo.

Ad men came into sight
Who carried fiery burdens;
Dishonesty weighs heavily
On their poor souls,
In Brooksvaline, where souls
The Day of Judgment undergo.

Children too could I behold.
With glowing coals beneath their feet.
These worked their parents ill in life,
Which hurt their spirits grievously
In Brooksvaline, where souls
The Day of Judgment undergo.

I was charged to approach that house,
Where witches had to work
In the blood which in life
Had stirred them up to wrath,
In Brooksvaline, where souls
The Day of Judgment undergo.

Down from the North in savage troops,
Come riding wicked spirits,
Led by the Prince of Hell.
In Brooksvaline, where souls
The Day of Judgment undergo.

What came from out of the North
Seemed worst of all;
In front rode he, the Prince of Hell,
On his black charger.
In Brooksvaline, where souls
The Day of Judgment undergo.

But from the South there came
In serene tranquility yet other bands.
Foremost rode St. Michael
At the side of Jesus Christ.
In Brooksvaline, where souls
The Day of Judgment undergo.

The souls laden with sin
Could but in terror tremble!
Their tears ran down in streams —
The result of their bad deeds.
In Brooksvaline, where souls
The Day of Judgment undergo.

In majesty stood Michael there
Weighing the human souls
Upon his scales for sin;
And giving judgment stood
The judge of the world, Jesus Christ.
In Brooksvaline, where souls
The Day of Judgment undergo.

V

Happy is he who in earth-life
Gives shoes to those in need;
He need not walk with naked feet
In the field of thorns.
Thus speaks the tongue of the scales,
And universal truth
Resounds within the spirit-state.

Happy is he who in earth-life
Hath given bread to the poor!
He cannot in that world
Be injured by the dogs.
Thus speaks the tongue of the scales,
And universal truth
Resounds within the spirit-state.

Happy is he, who in earth-life
Hath given corn to the poor!
Threatened he cannot be
By the sharp horns of the bull,
When he must pass the Gjaller-bridge.
Thus speaks the tongue of the scales,
And universal truth
Resounds within the spirit-state.

Happy is he, who in earth-life
Gives clothing to the poor!
The ice-masses in Brooksvaline
Cannot avail to freeze him.
Thus speaks the tongue of the scales,
And universal truth
Resounds within the spirit-state.

VI

Young folk and old ones too,
Give heed unto the words
Which Olaf spake about his dreams.
Long didst thou sleep indeed ...
Wake now, Olaf Oesteson!


The poem itself is old; but as we have already said, it has recently reappeared as if of itself among the Norwegian people and is spreading with great rapidity. The fact of this poem spreading id one among the many things at the present time which shows how people are longing to understand the secrets now being opened up by Theosophy, for the fact that what is here described takes place — or at least could take place a comparatively short time ago — in a soul, is not merely “imagination.” Olaf Oesteson is a type of those people living in the North who, even in the Middle Ages, about the middle of that period, were able to experience literally, one might say, the things mentioned in this poem. When our Norwegian friends gave me this poem on my visit to Christiania the time before last, and wished me to say something about it, it was the fact just mentioned, one of general theosophical interest, which came particularly to notice, but what led up to include this poem in our theosophical understanding we can really penetrate more and more deeply into what comes to light in it. Thus for instance, it was significant to me that Olaf (that is an old Norwegian name) has the surname “Oesteson.” “Oesteson” — the son of what? Of “Oste”; and I tried to find what sort of mother this is the son of. Now of course we might adduce many things — including some that might lead to dispute — about he meaning of the word “Oste” (East): but it would be impossible to-day to explain all that is connected with it. If, however, we take into account all that comes into question, “Olaf Oesteson” means approximately this: One who is still a son of that soul which passes down from generation to generation, and is connected with the blood which is handed on from generation to generation. Thus we have traced this name back to what we have so often spoken of in Theosophy, namely, that in ancient times the old clairvoyance was connected with the relationship of the blood which passes through generations. We might translate “Olaf Oesteson” thus: Olaf, the one born of many generations and who still bears in his soul the characteristics of many generations.

Now when we examine his experiences, it is extremely interesting to notice that what Olaf Oesteson went through while he was asleep for thirteen days, beginning from Christmas Eve, during which time he did not woke was in a sort of psychic state. When we read these verses describing his various experiences with the broad homeliness of the nation, we are reminded of certain descriptions of the first stages of initiation, where we are told that so and so was led to the portal of death. We are shown in many places in the poem that Olaf Oesteson arrives at the portal of death. It is pointed out particularly clearly where he says that he feels like a corpse, even to the earth which feels between his teeth. When we remember that in initiation the etheric body extends beyond the limits of the skin and the neophite becomes larger and larger, so that he lives into the large, into the wide expanse of space, we are told in this poem how Olaf Oesteson descends deeply, feels himself in the depths of the earth and ascends to the clouds. Olaf Oesteson experience what man has to go through after death, for example, in the sphere of the moon. It is poetically described how the moon shines clearly and how the paths stretch far away, then the chasm is described which has to be passed over in the world which lies between the human world and the one leading out into cosmic space. The heavenly bridge connects what is human with what is cosmic. Our attention is then drawn to the beings expressed in the constellations; the bull and the serpent. To one who can look spiritually into the world, the constellations are only the expression of what exists spiritually in space. Then the world of Kamaloca is disclosed in the description of “Brooksvaline.” It describes how there is a sort of recompense, how people have there to experience what they have not acquired here on earth, — but in a compensating way. — We need not, however, go into all the details of the poem. We should not do this at all with poems such as this. We ought to feel they have originated from a frame of mind still closely connected with something which existed in such a people as this, much longer than among nations which lived in the more interior part of the continent or who were connected with the life in cities. In the Norwegian people, which still possesses in its national language many things which border closely upon occult secrets, it is possible to keep souls in touch for a long time with what exists behind outer material phenomena.

Remember who I explained that, parallel with the seasons of the year, there are spiritual facts taking place, how in the spring when the plants spring forth the earth, when everything wakens, as it were, when the days grow longer, we have to recognize what may be called a sort of sleeping of the elementary and higher spirits connected with the earth. In spring, when outwardly the earth awakens, we see that spiritually this is connected with a sort of falling asleep of the earth; and when outer nature dies down again it is connected with an awakening of the spiritual nature of the earth. When about Christmas time outer nature is as though asleep, it is the time when the spiritual part of the earth is most active, and includes elemental, less important beings, as well as great and mighty beings connected with earthly life. It is only when it is observed outwardly that it seems as though we must compare spring with the awakening of the earth and winter to its going to sleep. Seen occultly it is the reverse. The “Spirit of the Earth” which however, consists of many spirits, is awake in winter and asleep in summer. Just as in the human organism the organic and plant activities are most active during sleep, as these forces then work even into the brain, and as the purely organic activity is subdued while the person is awake, so is it also with the earth. When the earth is most active, when everything has sprouted forth, when the sun has reached its zenith about St. John's Day, the Spirit of the earth is asleep. In accord with this occult truth the festival of Christmas, the festival of the awakening of the spirit, was fixed in winter. Things which have been handed down as customs from ancient times often correspond to these occult verities.

Now one who knows how to live with the spirit of the earth celebrates, for example, the festival of St. John in summer, for this festival is a kind of materialistic festival; it celebrates that which is revealed in an outward materialistic form. One who is connected with the Spirit of the Earth, with what lives spiritually in the earth, awakens in his inner being — that is, he sleeps outwardly like Olaf Oesteson — best at Christmas time, during the “Thirteen days.” This is an occult fact, which to occultism signifies exactly the same as, for example, the fact of the outer solstitial point to ordinary materialistic science. Of course materialistic science will consider it to be an obvious thing that in astronomy it should describe the activity of the sun in summer and in winter in a purely external manner, it will consider foolish what to occultists is a fact, namely that the spiritual solstice is at its highest point in winter, that therefore the conditions are then the most favorable for those who wish to come in touch with the Spirit of the Earth and all that is spiritual. Therefore to one who wishes to strengthen his soul's powers it may come about that he can have his best experiences during the thirteen days after Christmas. At that time, without noticing it, experiences come forth from the soul, — although the modern man is emancipated from outer processes, so that occult experiences can come at any time, but in so far as outer conditions can have an influence, the time between Christmas and New Year is most important.

Thus are we reminded by this poem in quite a natural manner, that a great deal of what we are able to relate regarding the period between death and rebirth was known among certain peoples a comparatively short time ago, many knew it from direct experience.




Last Modified: 26-Jun-2017
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