May 13, 1909
IN THE SEVEN LETTERS TO THE CHURCHES
found in the
Apocalypse we find a portrayal of the great main epoch of the seven
post-Atlantean ages, from the mighty Atlantean water catastrophe to
the event that is called the war of all against all.
We will now consider some
important passages from the letters in order to show the compass of
John's overview. He came from a cultural era when much was still taken
for granted, much that, today, could appear to ordinary consciousness
The leading power behind
these cultural epochs is presented with the seven stars in his hand.
Looking at the cultural epoch that saw the outer world as maya or illusion,
we find there the chorus of seven holy Rishis, who point to Vishva Karman.
The writer of the Apocalypse sees him as the being who has the wisdom
of the seven stars in his hand. Above all the writer of the Apocalypse
must look into the future. Because he is speaking to the descendants
of the Atlantean cultural epoch he refers to what lives in their memories.
So he calls the Nicolaitans the representatives of black magic, who are
excluded from the community that preserved the “first love.”
Therefore, he says of those who have continued to keep themselves from
becoming entangled in matter, that they will develop into the future.
Those who hear this admonishment will easily find their way back into
the spiritual world.
Then he speaks to the
people of the second cultural epoch, the age of Zarathustra. He speaks to
the followers of the great Zarathustra who have recorded their wisdom in
the teachings of Hermes, who have preserved for us an echo of Zarathustra's
teaching. Indications are given everywhere in these writings that people
should not develop a love for dreamy wandering, that they should get
to like life in the physical, sensible world. They are to see the sun
as the expression of a being, the spirit of the sun, and they should
look upon the stars as the bodies of the spirits who populate space. For
this reason it was the concern of Zarathustra to show the physical-material
world as the expression of the spirit. In this way the cultivation of
the earth's fields should be like a cultivation of the physical body
of God, who stands behind the physical world. The ancient Hebrew nation
that existed parallel to the ancient Persian culture also looked up
to this God. They also had a religious service to Zarathustra, which
is indicated in Abraham's encounter with Melchizedek.
From this we see that
remnants of the second cultural epoch remained. We know how mightily
the great Zarathustra admonished the people to work with the earth but
not to become slaves of matter. The power that wants to mislead people
into thinking there is nothing but physical matter he calls Ahriman,
the ahrimanic power. The danger arises through Ahriman that the human
being may come to like physical life too much.
In the ancient Hebrew
wisdom, Ahriman was given a name made up of two parts: Mephiz-Tophel,
Mephistopheles. This is he who called to Faust, who believed in the spirit
and went to the “Mothers,” that is, entered the spiritual
world: “You are coming to nothing!” Like Faust, those who
are seeking the spirit call back to the materialists: “In your
nothing I know how to find all.”
[See Note 1]
So the writer of the Apocalypse had to say: “Have no fear ... Some
of you Tophel will weave into the prison of matter.”
These are the ones who have become too wrapped up in matter.
We know that human beings
must descend into various incarnations on the earth where they live
their lives in physical, sensible bodies. Every life on earth is followed
by a life in the spiritual world. One day this ring of reincarnations
will be closed. The profound meaning of these reincarnations, if we
understand well the second letter of the Apocalypse, is this: human
beings should struggle through to a consciousness of self, to their
The soul saw the world
so very differently in the ancient Indian epoch, and how much has the
soul seen since then in other incarnations! Today we perceive in a way
entirely different from earlier incarnations. As the soul ascends from
stage to stage we acquire the concept of history. A thinking human being
must say: There is a history of life in the spiritual world. Because
in elementary theosophical teaching we cannot describe the life between
death and a new birth in more detail we usually describe the life in
devachan and kamaloca only in general terms. But it is different during
each of the various cultural epochs; for souls always have something
different to experience. We can describe this history only in separate
Let us look back to ancient
Atlantis; human beings were still in their soul and spiritual home during
life on earth. During the ancient Indian age human beings were still
in the spiritual world at night and after they passed through the gate
of death. In this original home it became light and bright around them.
To the extent that people came increasingly to like this physical world,
to that extent they lost their vision into the spiritual world; it became
darker and darker for them.
During the Egyptian culture
human beings already stood so firmly in the physical world that they
had to be taught to live in such a way that they could find Osiris in
the other world. Only in this way could the students still feel the
light between death and a new birth. The teaching of
The Book of the Dead
and the “judges of the dead” should be understood
in this way: Only by uniting with the Light of Osiris, the Osiris impulse,
could human beings hope that the spiritual world would be filled with
light and brightness for them.
Let us now look at the
Greco-Latin age when people had become so fond of physical matter that
they created physical forms incorporating ideals in the physical world.
That is why a human being of that time could say, “Rather a beggar
on earth than a king in the kingdom of shadows.”
[See Note 2]
It is not merely a legend that people went into darkness when they
descended into Hades. Humankind is in danger of losing itself in the world
of the senses. That is why God had to descend into this sense perceptible
world, this sense existence, and save it.
Ahura Mazdao through the veil of the sensible-sensual world. Yahweh
was proclaimed to Moses in the burning bush through the veil of the
sensible-sensual world. Then the same power proclaimed himself as Christ
in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. What then occurred had significance
not only for the physical world but also for the spiritual world.
In the same moment when
the blood flowed from the wounds of the redeemer, Christ appeared in the
underworld to the souls who stood between death and a new birth. Below in
the realm of matter the blood is flowing and while it is flowing, the
kingdom of the dead begins to become brighter and brighter. To the extent
that our culture now begins to climb upward to a spiritual understanding
of the fact of Golgotha, the brightness grows.
History is everywhere,
in the physical and in the spiritual. The whole of our post-Atlantean
cultural evolution has as its meaning the goal of leading humanity through
the physical world while, at the same time, keeping awake faith in the
spirit. It is always the same principle that manifests in the successive
The writer of the Apocalypse
turns his clairvoyant vision to the fact that these are people who are
becoming one with matter, who are using up the spiritual forces they
possess like an old inheritance without joining company with Christ.
Such people would gradually lose devachan; kamaloca would last longer and
longer and they would be captured, united with the gravity of earth.
Today only black magicians
do this; ordinary human beings cannot yet close themselves off from
all wisdom. The writer of the Apocalypse, however, must place everything
in perspective in order to point out that the impulse of Christ is
what saves human beings. For this reason the second letter says that
it would be the “second death” — the “spiritual
death” as Paul refers to it. The admonishment had to come in the
second letter because this letter refers to the second cultural epoch.
In the first post-Atlantean epoch this admonishment did not need to
be directed to humankind.
In the second letter
the leading spirit characterizes himself as “the alpha and the
In all of occultism there are certain symbols that dominate
and always mean the same thing. In ancient Egyptian times value was
placed on the formation of wisdom through the word; wisdom appeared then
for the first time in rigorously delineated words. The Indian world did
not yet place any value on knowledge; the culture of Zarathustra just as
little. For this reason the divine power of the word in the mouths of
human beings is everywhere signified by the “sword.”
Everywhere we find the
sword employed as a symbol of the humanization of divine power. “And
to the angel of the community in Pergamon wrote: ‘The words of
him who has the sharp two-edged sword.’”
But through knowledge the human being can also most be misled into black
In the Bible human beings
experience the power of God that flows to them as “manna.”
Let us now consider the full character of this age. Yahweh reveals himself
in the burning bush on Sinai. “Then Yahweh spoke to Moses: ‘I
am the I am.’ And he spoke: ‘You should say to the sons
of Israel: ‘The I am has sent me to you!’”
With these words the people were told: The I am has sent me to
you! Yahweh is the unpronounceable name of God. The name “I”
can never be spoken to a human being from outside. It is the intimate
name of God that human beings are only permitted to receive, sanctified
in their hearts. It was written on the altar of the tabernacle. Therefore,
we read: “To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden
manna and I will give him a white stone with a new name written on the
white stone ...
Those who received the I learned through
an inner power of the spirit to recognize the name with the hidden manna.
Through the fact that Christ revealed himself in a physical body on
the earth, human beings are to learn not to disdain the earth like the
ascetics, but to recognize that this earth has something to give them.
And so, the thirst for existence should not be extinguished but we should
purify our desires. The westerner should say: “Here work is done;
here hands are in motion and what is achieved here is taken through
the gate of death.” It is not our intention to tell of miracles
but, through legends, to come to realize what humanity has been given
We hear that Buddha had
an important pupil, Cassapa.
[See Note 3]
He was the one
whose task it was to spread the teaching of Buddha. We are told in a
legend that Cassapa did not die but disappeared into a cave. There his
physical body is being preserved until the day when the Maitreya Buddha
appears. Then the mortal remains of Cassapa will be touched by the fire
of heaven and dissolved.
Let us think our way into
this teaching. How will there be people in the future who can understand
the teaching of the Maitreya Buddha? Through the fact that the redeemer
himself carried his own mortal remains to heaven after three and a half
[See Note 4]
That means that those human beings who
unite themselves with the impulse of Christ will take what they have
achieved as the fruit of their lives with them and carry it into the
spiritual world. We will see how, by means of the connection with the
principle of Christ, all the fruits of earthly existence can be carried
into the spiritual world. The teachings of the Orient have always
proclaimed the future coming of the Christ, even in their legends. Because
we are to learn in the fourth post-Atlantean epoch how the earthly-physical
element directly goes over into the spiritual world, this is presented
to us with the phrase “he has eyes like a flame of fire”
and we are told: “His feet were like burnished bronze, refined as
in a furnace.—
Later we read, “And all the communities shall know that I am he
who searches mind and heart ...”
Here we are told that Christ is the one who brings the “I
am.” This inconspicuous little word must merely be read. The meaning
is that the principle behind the “I am” will become the
savior who leads us out of the material world. Word for word, line for
line the text can be explained in this way.
The contents of the fifth
are especially important for us. We read there that
we have received the secret of the name through the teaching concerning
the development of the earth, which is given to us by the “masters
of wisdom and the harmony of feeling.”
[See Note 5]
(Act 1, Royal Palatinate, Dark Gallery, line 6255).
Homer in the 11th book of the
This disciple of Buddha
was also called Maha-Cassapa, because he was a chief support for
the buddhistic brotherhood. After his conversion he immediately
assumed a very high rank among Buddha's followers. According to
the legend he called together the first gathering after Buddha's
death and functioned as the leader. He is considered the collector
of the canon and is the first buddhistic patriarch.
Compare the lecture cycle held in Karlsruhe,
From Jesus to Christ
(GA 131) (London:
Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973), lectures held on 11, 12, 14 of October
Compare: Zur Geschichte
und aus den Inhalten der ersten Abteilung der Esoterischen Schule
1904—1914 (GA 264), chapter titled: “Aus dem Lehrgut
der Meister der Welshed ...” [Concerning the History of
and from the Content of the First Section of the Esoteric School
1904—1914, chapter entitled: “From the Teachings
of the Masters of Wisdom ...”], pp. 199–240, and the
appendix, pp. 241–259.