September 5, 1924
View the blackboard drawing from the German edition for this lecture
will begin by pointing to a great thing in our time, namely, to
that great thing which must consist of an entirely new attitude
of the human soul to what works its way through priests'
activities. For as long as mankind has existed on earth, people
have always been attracted to what is present in the activities
of priests when an act of consecration of man was performed.
However, if we want to understand how the act of consecration
of man must appear to the priest who celebrates it and to the
layman who participates in it, we must take a look at what the
act of consecration of man was in the course of man's
development on earth, what it is and what it must become.
Looked at from another angle what the act of consecration of
man is when it is celebrated, is a permeation of this religious
service with the real content of what John, who had been
initiated by Christ, wanted to give to the later Christian
world with his Apocalypse. The right spirit when one is
celebrating an act of consecration of man and the right
consciousness when one is permeated with the substance of the
Apocalypse are two things which really belong together. Let's
disregard the particular form and connotations which the
Apocalypse has for Christians, and let's call all the occult
truths which have been and are being given in order to assure a
right continuation of the priestly impulse
“apocalypse.” The apocalypse concept covers a great
deal, and it is concentrated and summarized in John's
Apocalypse, which is attuned to the Christ. People who have
striven towards an apocalypse have always been aware that one
can only arrive at the complete and profound significance of
the reception of apocalyptic things through an immersion in an
act of consecration of man.
will be able to explain many things if we tell ourselves that
mysteries once existed, which I want to call the ancient
mysteries. We don't want to take up time in this introduction
with the giving of dates, so we will only describe four
successive stages. There were ancient mysteries, semi-ancient
mysteries, half new mysteries, and we are now at the beginning
of a new mystery impulse. Therewith we have four stages before
us, four stages in the development of man's understanding of
apocalypses and acts of consecration of man. If we look at the
ancient mysteries which existed among men at the dawn of human
evolution on earth and which had to bring holy, true and
beautiful things to human beings, we can say that their
importance derived from the fact that dignified priests in the
mysteries worked with the gods on a being to being basis. Just
as human beings relate to each other on a being to being basis
today, so gods associated with men and men with gods in those
ancient times in the mysteries.
However, just as there are laws of nature which are valid
during certain periods of time, so there are eternal laws which
don't interfere with man's freedom, even though they exist.
Among these eternal laws are some which refer to associations
between gods and human beings. These eternal laws had to be
taken into consideration when the gods associated with men in
the holy mysteries in the far distant past, when everything
that is connected with human instruction was occurring between
divine teachers and human beings, and when what took place in
the cults occurred in such a way that supersensible and
powerfully active gods walked among the celebrants of the
religious ceremonies. People in these ancient mysteries did the
things which had always given the act of consecration of man
its meaning when transubstantiations were being carried out.
But what was transubstantiation in the ancient mysteries?
Transubstantiation in the ancient mysteries was something which
gods regarded as the last thing through which they were still
entering into relations with human beings. The eternal laws
which I mentioned determined the way a path is made from gods
to men and from men to the gods during certain constellations
of the stars and planets which one became familiar with in
genuine ancient astrology, when conditions for finding out
things from the stars were favorable.
will be able to perceive one thing everywhere: if you look at
the way people calculated time in the old/days, you will see
that there are chronologies where they assume the existence of
35° days and others where they have 365 days. They
interpose leap days and intercalary months in order to correct
the discrepancies between human calculations and the true
course of cosmic events. What human beings can calculate never
coincides with the true course of cosmic events. A small
remainder is always left over, that is, human calculations
always have a small remnant in them. Priests in the ancient
mysteries, were particularly interested in these small
remainders where human calculations of time don't agree with
the cosmic course of events. One could say that this
non-coincidence became particularly noticeable at certain
times, for after they divided the year into weeks and lunar
months, extra days and weeks remained between the end of one
year and the beginning of the next.
Anyone who wants to find his way into the course of human
evolution has good reason to look at the times where men
— when they interpolated weeks — expressed the
non-coincidence of human calculations with the course of cosmic
events, ind where priests looked upon such weeks as holy weeks.
These holy weeks made it very clear that the ways gods and men
think are different, but if one places the heart of the gods
alongside the heart of man, one sees the difference between the
two, and one can then find the way from the gods to men and
from men to the gods.
people who really understood this and who were conversant with
ancient astrology were able to observe when gods visited their
mysteries. There were always holy times at the end of each year
or at the end of a lunar cycle of 18 years or of other periods
of time which indicated the difference or boundary between
human intelligence and divine intelligence, and during which
the priests in the mysteries could tell that gods can find the
way to them and that men can find their way to the gods.
such times priests tried to capture the activities of the sun
and the moon in the substances with which they celebrated the
act of consecration of man, so that they could extend what they
had received during sacred times to the other times in which
they had to celebrate. They preserved what the gods had made
out of earthly substances and forces during the sacred times.
They kept the water and its mercurial element, etc., from those
times in order to celebrate the act of consecration of man
during the rest of the year in such a way that it had a
transubstantiation which was done in the same way it had been
done by the gods in the services which had taken place during
so-called dead times which, however, were sacred times.
During these times when cosmic language was more important than
human language, the men in the ancient mysteries wanted to
connect themselves with the gods who descended into the
mysteries and who consecrated each religious service anew. The
gods gave the human beings who carried, out or participated in
these acts of consecration of man an understanding of
apocalyptic things. This is how great truths were taught in
ancient times, when an immersion in an act of consecration of
man meant that one was permeated with apocalyptic substance.
The act of consecration of man is a path of knowledge, and
apocalypse is the object of this holy knowledge.
Then we come to the semi-ancient mysteries, of which there is a
slight reflection in the literature, unlike the ones which I
called the ancient mysteries, for the latter can only be
investigated by occult science. During this time the gods
withdrew from men and sent their forces down into the
mysteries, and no longer appeared there as beings. It was the
time in which the act of consecration of man acquired that
radiance or divine glow which should always radiate above acts
which consecrate human beings.
secret behind transubstantiations was now sought in a different
way. The substances and forces which were supposed to flow into
the celebration of a transubstantiation were no longer
determined by an astrological investigation of cosmic
processes. Instead, one tried to arrive at an
understanding of the inner nature of what ancient
alchemists called ferments. A ferment is a substance which has
attained a certain maturity, that is, it has passed through all
of the preparatory stages of its material existence and
activity. To take a trivial example, just think of how one
bakes bread, for this occurs according to the same principle.
One saves the yeast in a small part of the dough and adds it to
the new dough. Try to imagine how ancient materials which had
undergone inner events or a transubstantiation in the course of
time were preserved in sacred vessels, which were greatly
esteemed in the ancient and semi-ancient mysteries, and how
they were taken out of these vessels after they had been
transformed by very ancient and sacred processes.
Ferments were taken out of sacred vessels and they were used to
transform substances through ancient and still sacred
alchemical processes. The priest was an initiate who saw how
the preserved substances and forces shone in the sacred
crystalline vessels, and so he knew how the transubstantiation
occurred. One looked upon these substances and forces as a
cognitional organ for the people who were celebrating rituals,
which enabled them to receive apocalyptic things.
following state of affairs existed at the time of these
semi-ancient mysteries. A priest passed his entrance exams, as
it were, the moment he could stand before the sacred place or
structure, and the old, fermenting substances in the sacred
crystalline vessels became transformed for him in such a way
that he saw a small sun or a natural small monstrance in the
crystalline vessel, as the substances spread sunshine around
them. This was something holy, and it can only be reproduced
externally today. The moment he saw this he became a priest in
an inner sense.
Today everyone who goes into a Catholic church sees a
monstrance, but it is only a symbol for what it once was. In
ancient times the only one who saw it was a true priest who saw
a radiant sun appear in the preserved substances. At that
moment his soul gained knowledge of apocalyptic things.
Then came the mysteries which are reflected in the modern mass.
The Catholic mass, the Armenian mass and other masses arose
from the half new mysteries in a very complicated way, and even
though they have become externalized, they still contain the
complete initiation principle. What man can perceive when
magical words awaken within him began to be present in these
half new mysteries, instead of the god's presence in the
ancient mysteries and the presence of forces which the gods
sent in the semi-ancient mysteries. These words enable one to
acquire very profound knowledge of the inner nature of sound,
and intense feelings resound in them.
During the time of the half new mysteries human language and
cultic language were two different things, and remnants of the
latter are still present in individual religious confessions.
Ln this cultic language everything depends upon rhythm, a deep
understanding of sounds and an understanding of the way that
sounds from the priest's mouth penetrate human hearts. The
intonation of magical cultic words in sacred places enabled
people to ascend to the forces of the gods for the first
The first human period —
ancient mysteries — the gods descend.
Second human period —
semi-ancient mysteries — the gods send their forces
Third human period — half new
mysteries — man learns a magical language and begins
to ascend to the forces of the divine world through the
intonation of magical words.
This is why words were intoned during the third period of acts
of consecration of man. The Kabiri element lived in all
religious cults which arose during this third period. For the
Kabiri services and sacrifices which were celebrated in
Samothrace were brought into all of the half way new ceremonies
in the act of consecration of man and into all the ceremonies
which belong to This. Let's place the Kabiri altar at
Samothrace before our souls. The Kabirs who stood upon it as
external relics were sacrificial urns that contained no
ferments, but substances which men find if they can penetrate
the inner spiritual aspect of matter. The sacrificial urns
contained such substances. The sacrificial substances in the
urns were ignited, and smoke ascended. The magical language
created an Imagination of the intoned words in the rising
smoke. Thus the way up to divine forces was outwardly visible
in the sacrificial smoke. The priests who were surrounded by
this smoke knew that they were in the right atmosphere for
carrying out a transubstantiation.
Aristotle explained to Alexander, the substances were mixed in
such a way that a sacred Imagination emerged from the
sacrificial smoke, and this showed one the way to the, gods. If
people found this way, the priest's transubstantiation was a
right one and the act of consecration of man was executed
correctly. Those who celebrated and participated in it knew
that it was an organ of cognition. For when the ceremonially
shaped, magical words and prayers flamed up in the sacrificial
smoke and streamed up to the gods, an apocalyptic revelation
came down from above as a gift of grace. This was the third
stage in the development of apocalyptic things and of an act of
consecration of man.
These stages have deteriorated somewhat. Only their external
features are still real today. A new period for the act of
consecration of man and for apocalyptic things began when we
inaugurated the new priesthood and a Christian renewal here at
the Goetheanum. Tomorrow we will go into what the act of
consecration of man must bring about in you and what should
stream through your hearts in order for you to carry it out in
the right way during this fourth stage.