Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib
The Mission of Michael. The Revelation of the Intrinsic Secret of the Human Being
Elemental Beings and Human Destinies
A lecture by
Dornach, December 6, 1919
Copyright © 1984
A lecture, hitherto untranslated given at Dornach on December 6, 1919.
Published in The Golden Blade, 1984. It is also known as,
The Michael Impulse and the Mystery of Golgotha.
It is the seventh of twelve lectures in the volume
The Mission of Michael. The Revelation of the
Intrinsic Secret of the Human Being.
In the collected edition of Rudolf Steiner's works, the volume
containing the German texts is entitled,
Die Sendung Michaels. Die Offenbarung der eigentlichen
Geheimnisse des Menschenwesens
published by De Verlag der Rudolf
Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland.
(Vol. 194 in the Bibliographic Survey, 1961).
Translation revised by Charles Davy.
This e.Text edition is provided through the wonderful work of:
The Golden Blade
for related titles available for purchase at
ELEMENTAL BEINGS AND HUMAN DESTINIES
A lecture at Dornach, December 6, 1919, printed in German in
Die Sendung Michaels published by De Verlag der Rudolf
Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland (GA 194) as lecture 7.
Translation revised by Charles Davy.
FOR a true understanding of the nature of the human being we have to
recognise his division into three members, each of which is,
relatively speaking, self-dependent. We have within the human being
the head, the organs of the breast system, and the organs of the
limbs. These are of course crude expressions that are only roughly
true. Under the name of limbs, for example, we have to include a good
part of what is contained in the trunk. Moreover, as you will have
gathered from my lectures, as well as from my book,
Riddles of the Soul,
there is a connection between the head of Man and his life
of thought and ideation; the whole rhythmic activity in Man
roughly speaking, the breast system is connected with the
sphere of feeling; and finally the sphere of the will, which
represents the essentially spiritual part of Man, goes together with
the system and organisation of the limbs. Relatively speaking, these
three systems of the human organism are independent one of another.
Similarly, the life of ideas, the life of feeling and the life of will
are each self-dependent, although at the same time they work together.
Now, as you know, we can best comprehend the difference from a
spiritual point of view between these three systems when we observe
them in the following way. In ordinary waking life Man is fully awake
only in his head system in all that has to do with the life of
thinking and ideas. Everything connected with the life of feeling
that is, from a bodily aspect, with the rhythmic system
is a dream-life. Even in daytime the life of feeling pervades our
waking life with a life of dreams. What goes on in the sphere of
feeling we know indirectly through ideas, but we can never know it
directly through the feelings themselves. The life of will is in still
greater darkness; we have no clearer grasp of its real content than we
have of the life of sleep.
A recognition of these distinctions allows us to indicate more exactly
than is usually done the character and extent of the subconscious
states lying below ordinary human consciousness. Subconscious ideas
lie beneath the life of feeling; and still more deeply unconscious
ideas lie beneath the life of will.
Now it is very important to realise that each one of the three systems
contains within it thinking, feeling and willing. In the head system
or the system of thought, a life of feeling and a life of will are
also present; only they are much less developed than the life of
ideas. Similarly, thoughts are present in the sphere of feeling, more
feebly than in the sphere of the head and only coming to consciousness
in a dreamlike manner.
One thing is usually quite disregarded, my dear friends, in our time
of abstract science, and it is this. These subconscious members of the
human being are more objective in proportion as they are less
subjectively present in consciousness. What do I mean by that? I mean
this. In our life of ideas, in our head life, we have processes which
take place within us. On the other hand, what we experience through
our rhythmic system, the processes that go on in the sphere of our
feeling, are by no means our own individual property. They take place
within us and yet at the same time they represent objective
world-processes. This means that when you feel, you have of course an
experience in yourself, but this experience is at the same time
something that happens in the world and has significance there. And it
is of extraordinary interest to follow up the world-processes that lie
behind our life of feeling.
Suppose you experience something that affects you very deeply, Some
event that moves you to joy or sorrow. Now you know that the whole of
life runs its course in such a way that we can separate it into
periods of about seven years in length. Roughly speaking, the first is
from birth to the change of teeth, the second to the age of puberty,
the third to the beginning of the twenty-first year, and so on. All
these boundary lines are of course only approximate. Here then we have
one division that shows itself in the course of human life.
The turning-points in the development of the human being which we
arrive at by this method are clearly marked in the earlier part of
life change of teeth, and puberty but later are more or
less concealed, although they can be distinctly noted by one who knows
what to look for. That which takes place in the soul and spirit of the
human being about the twenty-first year of life is, for one who can
observe it, just as clearly perceptible as the change at puberty is
for external physiology. The division into seven-year periods holds
true, in fact, for the whole course of human life.
Now let us go back to the event that makes a strong impression on our
life of feeling. Suppose the event happens between the change of teeth
and puberty. A very remarkable thing then takes place, which in these
days of crude observation is not generally noticed. The impression
made upon your feeling is there, and then gradually the vibrations of
it die away in your consciousness. But something takes place in the
objective world quite apart from what is in your consciousness, quite
apart from any share your life of soul has in it. And this process
that goes on in the objective world may be compared with the setting
up of a vibratory motion. It vibrates out into the world. And the
remarkable thing is that it does not go out and out endlessly into the
infinite, but when it has spread itself out for a sufficient distance
when its elasticity is, so to speak, used up it swings
back and makes its appearance in the next seven-year period as an
impulse that works upon your life of soul from outside. I will not say
that such an event always comes back seven years later, for the lapse
of time depends on the whole form and character of the individual
life, but it falls into the course of the next seven-year period,
although very often entirely without your notice.
Yes, my dear friends, we continually undergo experiences which strike
in upon our feeling life and are the reaction of the world to an
experience we had in the sphere of feeling during the previous
seven-year period. An event that stirs and moves our feelings resounds
again into our life of soul during the next stage of life. People do
not usually remark such things, but anyone who takes a little trouble
can learn to observe them, even externally.
Who of you has not at one time had the experience that someone you
know well suddenly becomes dejected and out of humour? You have no
idea why, but a change has come over him out of the blue,
as we say. If you follow up the matter and have the eyes of your soul
open to observe the particular way in which such a man conducts
himself in life, if you can feel what is in between the words he says
or rather, what is within the words then you will
be able to go back to some earlier event that affected him deeply. And
during the whole of the interval something has been going on in the
world which would not have been going on if the man had not had that
moving experience. The whole thing is a process which, besides being
experienced by the man himself, takes place also as an absolutely
objective experience outside him.
You will readily see how many opportunities there are for such things
to go on outside us! They come about through our instrumentality, but
they are none the less objective world-processes. These processes
become involved in all that is going on among the elemental beings
outside us, including such elemental beings as I described to you
recently. You will remember how in another connection I brought them
together with the breathing and the whole rhythmic system. Now you can
see them working together with the rhythmic system indirectly through
stimulation of the feelings. When we understand these things rightly,
we are led to the inevitable conclusion that Man is continually
creating around him as it were a great aura. And into the waves that
are thus thrown up, elemental beings plunge; they mix themselves up,
as it were, in the whole process and are able to influence the
reaction that comes back on to Man their power to do so,
however, depending on the individual human being.
Let us picture the whole process. Something moves you deeply. You ray
it out all around you. When it comes back to you, it is not unchanged;
in the meantime elemental beings have concerned themselves with it,
and when it works back on to you, then, together with the process
outside you of which the elemental beings took hold, you receive also
the influences and workings of these elemental beings. Man spreads out
around him a spiritual atmosphere whereby he comes into contact with
elemental beings he and they mutually affect one another. All
destiny that works itself out within the course of life is
connected with these beings. For even within this life we have a kind
of fulfillment of our destiny. If we have some experience today, then
that experience has a significance for our later life. And this in
fact is how our destiny is moulded. Elemental beings who feel
attracted to us by reason of our nature, work at the shaping of our
destiny. There they attain to a feeling of themselves: there they work
with us and upon us.
We have here obtained an insight into the interplay between Man and
his environment, and can see how spiritual forces are at work in the
environment. By following this interplay, we can throw a light on many
things that happen to Man in the way of destiny. An insight into these
connections is nowhere within the scope of the enlightened
knowledge of our times; we can find traces of it only in traditions
that have survived from earlier times, when Man lived in more
elemental stages of consciousness and had more direct connection with
reality. These traditions you will find sometimes very beautifully
brought to expression in poems of earlier ages, where a destiny that
befalls a human being is referred to the intervention of elemental
beings. One of the most beautiful that has been preserved is a poem
often presented to you in a Eurythmy performance. Here you can see how
elemental beings from the Elf King's realm intervene in the destiny of
Man. The poem runs thus:
Sir Olaf rides from house and hall
Till late, his wedding guests to call.
There elves are dancing on the green,
Elf King's daughter amidst them is seen.
Welcome Sir Olaf, your hand I'll take,
Come dance and join us for my sake.
I shall not dance nor dance I may,
Tomorrow will be my wedding day!
Mark well, Sir Olaf, and dance with me
Two golden spurs I'll give to thee!
A silken sark snow white and fine
My mother bleached it by moonshine.
I shall not dance nor dance I may
Tomorrow will be my wedding day!
Mark well, Sir Olaf, and dance with me
A mountain of gold I'll give to thee!
To a mountain of gold I'll not say nay,
But I shall not dance nor dance I may.
If you refuse to dance with me
Illness and pest shall follow thee.
Over his heart she struck amain,
Never he felt such bitter pain.
Pale-faced he sat on his horse so tame
Go back, she cried, to your worthy dame.
And when at last he reached his gate
Trembling his mother stood to wait.
My son, my son, oh tell me true
Why is your face of deathlike hue?
Of deathlike hue it needs must be
For Elf King's daughter did I see.
My son so dear, and loved so well,
What to your bride I needs must tell?
Tell her that to the woods I'm bound
To exercise my horse and hound.
At early dawn, at break of day,
Came bride and guests in their wedding array.
They feasted and drank of wine and beer
Where is Sir Olaf, my bridegroom dear?
Sir Olaf to the woods is bound
To exercise his horse and hound!
The bride she lifted the cloth so red
There lay Sir Olaf and he was dead.
There you have the elemental world interweaving in the destiny of Man,
at the very moment when his destiny strikes in upon him with the shock
of illness and of death. Please note the words exactly. In old poems
these things are not presented as they would be in poems of recent
times. (Herder took these verses from an old folk-poem). Of the poems
produced within present day culture we may well say that about 99 per
cent are superfluous. The poems that are derived from an ancient
knowledge are always to be distinguished by the fact that they are
true to reality. It could not possibly have been said in this poem
that she struck him on the head, or on the mouth, or on the nose, but:
Over the heart she struck him amain,
He felt therefrom a grievous
In this connection it has to be an organ of the rhythmic system, hence
What I want you to note is that here you have an entirely faithful
reproduction in poetry of what actually goes on around Man in such an
hour of destiny. It is in fact always going on around Man, but it
makes itself felt particularly strongly in connection with the
phenomenon of this periodic return of experiences in the sphere of
feeling. For these always come back to us in a changed form. They
enter into our destiny only after they have passed through whatever
the elemental beings have found to do with them. Just as we live
within the external physical air or among the products of the mineral,
plant and animal kingdoms in the very same way do we live with
the subconscious parts of our nature in spiritual spheres. In
particular, with our rhythmic system we live in the spiritual sphere
of the elemental beings. And in that sphere is shaped as much of our
destiny as can be shaped in the course of life between birth and
Only because in our head we are fully awake, do we rise up at all out
of this interplay with the elemental beings. In respect of our head
life alone we are not involved in the realm of the elemental beings.
There in our head we emerge, so to speak, above the surface of the
ocean of elemental existence, in which as human beings we perpetually
swim. Here then you may see how experiences can come back in the form
of destiny even within the ordinary course of life, when they are
related to our rhythmic system.
For the limb system, too, there is an interplay with the environment,
but it is very much more complicated. Here again the events swing
back; but they make a wider circuit and come back only in the next
life or in one of the following earth-lives. Thus we can say that what
we call our destiny or Karma need not after all be so enigmatic for
us, if we look on it as only a further expansion of what can be
studied in the return of experiences within a single life. For the
experiences do not come back unchanged; they have undergone a very
great change in the meantime.
Let me now draw your attention to a particular fact. Wherever I have
lectured on education, I have always given emphasis to an important
landmark in the course of life that occurs at about the ninth year. It
is a turning-point that should be very carefully marked in teaching.
Up to that time one's teaching about nature should be entirely of the
kind where the description of nature and her processes is connected
by way of fables, legends, and so forth with the moral
life. Only at the ninth year may one begin to describe nature in a
simple, elementary manner. Then the child is ripe for it. In Waldorf
education the whole arrangement and treatment of subjects is derived
directly and entirely from actual observation of the human being, down
to the smallest details. I pointed this out in the article I wrote on
the educational foundations of the Waldorf School, and I alluded there
to this turning-point around the ninth year.
We may characterise this turning-point by saying that the
ego-consciousness receives then a new form. The child becomes capable
of taking note of external nature in a more objective way. Earlier, he
unites whatever he sees in nature with his own being. Now the
ego-consciousness unfolds, as you know, in the first seven-year stage
of life, from about 2 2 ½ years of age. What happens is
that it comes back in the second seven-year period, at about the ninth
year. This is one of the most striking returns this
return of the ego-consciousness at about the ninth year of age. It
comes back in a more spiritual form, whereas in the second or third
year of life it has more of a soul character. This is only one of the
events which comes back in a striking manner. The same observation can
be made for less significant events.
Indeed, my dear friends, it will become urgently necessary for the
future of human evolution to pay attention to these intimate things in
the life of Man. An insight into such things must gradually become
part of general culture. The culture and education of mankind change
from epoch to epoch. We today, for example, are quite unhappy if at
ten years old our children cannot read or do sums. The Romans were not
so at all; they were unhappy if a child of ten did not yet know the
twelve tables of the law. We for our part do not put ourselves to
great trouble to make our children acquainted with the terms of the
law. Our children's minds would be in a sorry plight if we did! What
is thought necessary for people generally to be aware of, changes from
age to age; and today we stand at the starting point of a time when
the very evolution of the earth and mankind requires that these more
intimate connections of Man's life of soul shall be generally
recognised. Man will have to come to the point of knowing himself more
exactly than has been held to be necessary hitherto. Otherwise these
things will work back upon the whole disposition of human life in a
most unfavourable way.
Because we do not know that something which stirs us deeply has such
an origin, it does not by any means follow that nothing of the kind
takes place in our life of soul. The events come back; they exercise
their influence upon our life of soul. We cannot account for them. We
do not attempt to bring them into our consciousness. The result is
that many people today suffer a great deal from conditions of soul
which they simply accept, while of course having no idea that they are
to be referred to earlier experiences. Whatever concerns our feelings
always comes back in some form or other. You will probably remember
the typical instance I have often given. If we teach a child to pray
if, that is, we teach him to develop a prayerful mood and
feeling, the effect of it will swing back into his life after many
years. It swings back in the interval, but then swings out again
further, and only later, after a very long time, does the feeling of
prayer come back and manifest in a mood of blessing. As I have often
said: No-one will be able in old age to bestow blessing upon others,
merely from his presence, from the imponderable elements in his
nature, if in childhood he has not learned to pray. Prayer turns into
the power to bless. That is how things come back in life. And it is
becoming imperative that men should understand these things.
The truth is that men's failure to comprehend these things is the
cause of their inability to perceive the great significance of the
Mystery of Golgotha. What meaning can it have for people who are
caught in the toils of present day education when they hear it said:
After Christ had passed through the Mystery of Golgotha, He
united Himself with the life of earthly humanity? People are not
ready to form any idea of their reciprocal relation to the very realm
of life wherein the Christ is to be found. The influence of the Christ
Impulse is not very noticeable in the concept-forming activity of our
heads. As soon, however, as we look down into the unconscious, as soon
as we turn our gaze downwards into the sphere of feeling and into the
sphere of willing, then we live, first of all, in the sphere of
elemental beings; but this sphere is interwoven for us with the Christ
Impulse. By way of our rhythmic system that is, by way of our
feelings we dive down into the realm with which the Christ has
united Himself. There we come to the place where the Christ is truly
to be found, quite objectively, not merely through tradition or
through subjective mysticism.
Moreover, we are living now in an epoch when the events that come from
this place, in the way I have just explained, are coming to have great
objective significance for the life of Man. For they are beginning to
exercise an unconscious influence on men's decisions, upon all that
men do; and this is true, even if they struggle against it. If only we
are willing to enter into this matter and understand it, we shall be
able to experience the influence consciously and to reckon with it;
and then we shall be able to call on the spiritual worlds around us to
aid us and to work with us.
An external observation will suffice to show that in this matter we
are standing at a turning-point in human evolution. I need only refer
you to one fact of which I have often spoken from one or another point
of view. If we look at the accustomed treatment of history, we shall
see that it has not yet reached an understanding of the Mystery of
Golgotha. Just recall the history of the world as it is usually set
before us. A description is given of the ancient Assyrian and
Babylonian kingdoms, of the ancient Persian and Egyptian kingdoms and
of Greece and Rome, and then perhaps mention is made that the Mystery
of Golgotha took place, and after that follows an account of the
migrations of peoples, and so on. Some historians then carry the story
up to the French Revolution or to Poincare; others to the downfall of
the Hohenzollerns, and so forth. But in all this fable convenue
you will find no mention of the continued working of the Christ
Impulse. From the point of view of history as conceived today, it is
just as though the Christ Impulse had been simply struck out. It is
It is remarkable how, for example, an historian such as Ranke, who was
a Christian and had a true appreciation of the Christ Impulse from a
subjective aspect, simply cannot bring the Christ Event into his
history. He does not know what to make of it. It plays no part in his
conception of history. We may truly say that for Man's knowledge of
the spirit, as manifested in history, Christianity is not yet there.
It is our anthroposophical spiritual science which for the first time
treats history in such a way as to reckon quite positively with the
necessity that in the fourth Post-Atlantean epoch the event of
Golgotha should break in upon the course of historical evolution. This
event is placed at the very centre of our picture of the history of
Man. Yes, and we go further. Not only do we receive the event of
Golgotha into our picture of the history of Man, we portray cosmic
evolution also, so that the Mystery of Golgotha has place within it.
If you will study my
Outline of Occult Science,
you will find
that we do not speak there merely of eclipses of the sun or eclipses
of the moon or of explosions or eruptions in the cosmos, but we speak
of the Christ Event as a cosmic event. Strange to say, while the
so-called historians can find no possible way of including the Christ
Event in the progress of Man, the official representatives of religion
are infuriated when they hear that some kind of anthroposophical
spiritual science has entered the field and speaks of the Christ Event
as a cosmic event. When they hear this, they treat it as a terrible
outrage. Thus you can see how little readiness there is on the part of
the Churches to meet the requirements of our time, for it is essential
that the Christ Event should be brought into connection with the great
events of the universe.
It must be said that even theologians today often speak of the Christ
just as they may speak of any other divine Being. They speak of Him
very much as the Hebrews of old or the Jews today speak of their
Jahve. I told you a few days ago how one could take Harnack's book,
The Essence of Christianity, and substitute for the name of
Christ, wherever he uses it, the general name of God, and this without
altering the sense, for Harnack has no glimmering of the specific
nature of Christianity. His book is page for page a description of the
very opposite of the essence of Christianity. It does not treat of
Christianity at all; it treats of a general Jahve teaching.
It is important to point out these things, for they are deeply
connected with the necessary demands of our time. It is no vague
awareness of the presence of an abstract spiritual world that is
needed: the evolution of human culture requires that Man should bring
into it a consciousness of the actual spiritual world in which we live
with all that we feel and will and do, and out of which we raise
ourselves only in so far as we think. We emerge from it only with our
heads, so to speak. Indeed, an entirely new kind of world-picture is
justified when the endeavour is made to permeate all our feeling and
willing and doing with the Christ Impulse. Our modern astronomy and
our theory of evolution have been able to develop so entirely along
the lines of abstract formulae solely because the Christ Impulse has
not taken hold of men inwardly, but has remained a tradition. Even
where it has taken hold of men subjectively, their inner experiences
have not been at the same time objective world experiences that
is, experiences where we feel an interplay between ourselves and all
that is happening spiritually around us.
Here and there one sees people beginning to be very keenly aware of
the need for a new impulse in the evolution of humanity. But it is
with the greatest difficulty that they come to the point of resolving
to take hold of the life of the spirit in its actuality. When people
speak of the spirit, they always have more or less a desire to keep
within the abstract.
Even the consciousness of how we stand in relation to our thoughts
must change in a certain way. For, as I have repeatedly pointed out,
anthroposophical spiritual science is brought forward at this present
time in fulfillment of a definite purpose. It is not the result of a
wish to promote enthusiasm for some sort of ideal. It springs from an
insight into Man's needs at the present time. And we must again at
this point relate the needs of the present day to certain powers of
the soul that were present in earlier ages, when Man had a closer
connection with his spiritual environment. For in earlier times the
conditions of Man's life of soul were quite different.
As I have often explained to you, we cannot look for any further
development of Man from sources outside himself. The impulses for the
progress of human evolution must in future be called forth from
within; they must proceed from our connection with the spiritual
world, and we must not blind ourselves to the fact that unless
something is added by our own exertion to the experiences of life,
these will tend increasingly to become experiences of decline. We find
ourselves already in the descending evolution of the earth, and as
human beings we must lift ourselves up by our own efforts if we are to
transcend the earth-evolution, for we can emerge beyond it only
through our connection with the spiritual world. It is our strivings
in the direction of knowledge that we shall have to feel as a power
within us, enabling humanity to pass over into future stages of
evolution, when the Earth dies away, even as we pass on to further
stages of evolution when our body dies away and we go through the gate
We pass as individual human beings through the gate of death into the
spiritual world; the body dies away beneath us. So will it be one day
for mankind as a whole. Mankind will evolve over into the Jupiter
existence. The Earth will become a corpse. We are even now in the
dying stage of its evolution. The individual human being gets wrinkles
and grey hairs. For the geologist who knows how to observe correctly,
the Earth bears upon her today the unmistakable signs of old age; she
is dying away beneath our feet. The spiritual quest we are engaged
upon today is working counter to the ageing of the Earth. Awareness of
this fact must permeate our consciousness.
Earlier ages spoke from a different point of view of the close
relation between their Mystery knowledge and physical health and
healing. This is a truth that must now begin once more to find its way
into human consciousness. All striving for knowledge must give rise to
the thought: I am doing something to promote the further evolution of
the whole of mankind. We shall obviously never come to this
consciousness as long as we do not pay attention to the actual process
that goes on around us in the way I have described. For until we
recognise this, we are bound to regard everything we feel and will and
do as our personal affair. We shall have no idea that it is something
which takes its course outside us, as well as within.
It will be necessary also for the more exact branches of human
knowledge to come to meet this extension of our thought and
understanding of the world. And here allow me to refer to something
that may perhaps not be fully intelligible to everyone.
The more exact domains of knowledge are by no means yet at their
zenith far from it! For example, you can find today in the
exact sciences the most impossible ideas. I will select just one,
which may perhaps be generally intelligible. People have usually the
following trivial picture: out there somewhere is the sun, and from
the sun light goes out in all directions, just as from any other
source of light. And you will find that wherever people follow this
diffusion of light with mathematical ideas, they will say: You see,
the light spreads out and out into the infinite, and then why
then it somehow or other disappears; it gradually weakens and is lost.
But this is not so. Everything that spreads out or is diffused in this
way reaches a boundary, and from this boundary it swings back again;
it returns to its source in a changed form. The sunlight does not go
out into the infinite, but swings back on itself not indeed as
light, but as something else. None the less, it does return.
So it is in reality with every form of light. And so it is with every
kind of activity. All activities and influences are subject to the law
of elasticity. The elasticity in them always has its boundary or
limit. And yet ideas such as I have described above are current in our
so-called exact sciences; you will find them presented there today. If
you were physicists, I would draw your attention to how people reckon
with distance traversed and time. They call the
velocity, usually denoted by ‘v’, a function of distance and time, and
they arrive at the following equation: v = d/t
But, my dear friends, that is absolutely false. The velocity is not a
resultant; the velocity is an elementary principle or quality that
something, be it material or spiritual, bears within it. And this
velocity we analyse; we split it up into distance and time. We
abstract the two things out of it space and time. Space and
time, however, are not real things in themselves. Velocities, varying
velocities, are real.
This observation I make for the benefit of physicists. They will
understand me when I say that their theoretical knowledge of time
rests in very shaky foundations. These theories would indeed not hold
water if we were in a position to grasp the spiritual in its
That is the very thing required of us in the present Michael Age. It
means that we must take full cognisance of the environment of Man; we
must come to know the various elemental and higher beings in our
environment as surely as we know of the air and water around us. These
are the important things for us; and they must once again become a
part of general education and culture, as they were in ancient times.
People are not prepared to admit this. They will not admit that in
human evolution changes occur as momentous as that which occurred, for
example, at the turning-point in the middle of the 15th century. And
yet it is quite possible to prove it from detailed facts.
Some Swede or Norwegian has recently written a book in which he gives
many quotations from the alchemists. In particular he cites a passage
where all manner of things are mentioned mercury, antimony, and
so on. And now our author, whom his book shows to be an excellent
modern chemist, says he can make nothing of a certain recipe which is
indicated by some alchemist. He cannot do so for the simple reason
that, when a present-day chemist speaks of mercury or quicksilver, he
means the external metal. But in the book from which he is quoting the
words mean something quite different. They do not refer to the
external metal at all, but to certain processes within the human
organism, and they indicate a knowledge of the inner being of Man.
They carry the sense they had for the alchemist. Certainly it is quite
possible to read them as if one were reading the description of a
laboratory experiment, carried out with retorts and the like
but then one gets no meaning out of it! One is bound to regard it all
as nonsense. It has meaning, however, as soon as we know what
was meant by the words antimony, mercury, and so forth in those times.
They have, it is true, a certain application to the external minerals,
but they refer paramountly to inner processes of human nature, for
which one had other means of approach than those we have today. The
relevant writings from before the 15th century have accordingly to be
read with an understanding quite different from the way in which we
approach scientific writings of later date.
Such things as these give opportunity to study even externally the
far-reaching change that has occurred in Man's life of soul. For a
long time now, indeed for hundreds of years, mankind has set no value
on these things, but today we are living in an epoch when we must
begin to place very great value on them.
Last Modified: 12-Jun-2018
The Rudolf Steiner Archive is maintained by: