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Popular Occultism

Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib Document

Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.

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Popular Occultism

Schmidt Number: S-1355

On-line since: 30th April, 2020

Popular Occultism

8th Lecture


Leipzig, 6 July, 1906

In the following lectures we shall deal with the evolution of man and of the earth itself, with the evolution of the whole solar system. Also with the methods of an occult inner training, particularly with the difference between the oriental and the occidental initiation. Then with the Christian initiation, which exists since the time of St. John, the author of the Gospel of St. John and of the Revelations.

Occult research of man's evolution goes back far into the times dealt with by history and natural science. How does the occultist know of these long-past things? He knows them by investigating the Akasha Chronicle. This living chronicle of the spiritual world contains the documents and facts of which we shall speak. They completely harmonize with the investigations of natural science. Natural science also begins to be interested in the continent of Atlantis [See Rudolf Steiner's “Akasha Chronicle”.]. Atlantis always existed and was always known to occult investigation. It is important to bear in mind that modern natural science is better acquainted than in the past with what can be seen through the eyes, but the old science of the Mysteries knew of more encompassing, more powerful realities. What is not yet admitted by modern science, namely that also man already lived on the Atlantean continent, is a fact advanced by Occultism. Our forefathers, the peoples who lived on our continent descended from the Atlanteans. Of course, the Atlantean human beings, whose organization was adapted to the conditions of the earth which existed at that time, greatly differed in aspect from modern man. Atlantis had a quite different climate, and consequently entirely different distribution of air and water, it was a land of fogs and mists ... at that time there was no alternating rain and sunshine. Everything was wrapped in clouds and the only thing which varied with the degree of moisture. Only when the floods of water began to recede and Atlantis had gone down, rain and sunshine alternated. This may be found in the description of the Old Testament, where it speaks of the rainbow seen by Noah after the Flood.

Religious documents may be viewed from four aspects. 1) By taking them naïvely and literally. 2) From the standpoint of science which considers itself far cleverer than the authors of these documents. 3) From the standpoint of an allegorical-symbolic interpretation (which may be very clever, but is in many cases quite arbitrary). 4) From the occult standpoint, by taking the things described in the characteristic language of such documents again in their exact meaning, thus reaching again a literal understanding of the words. For example, Noah's rainbow, it's not a symbol, but it expresses the fact that a rainbow could only arise after the descent of Atlantis and the receding of the mists. There could be no rainbow in the ancient Atlantean epoch. Noah (“Bringer of Peace”) should be looked upon as the leader (the Manu) whose task was that of guiding the peoples out of the sinking Atlantis. It was at this moment that the rainbow first arose.

We thus learn once more to read the Bible literally and at the same time we gain an occultist's sense of devotion for facts which others criticize. Here we may apply the sentence: “With the growth of knowledge and understanding, you will feel that the critic in you becomes a mere apprentice.” There is a deep meaning and ancient truths in legends and fairy-tales. The German saga speaks for example of “Nifelheim”. This is the misty land of Atlantis. “Nibelungen-land” is a metamorphosis of the word “Nifelheim-Nebelheim” — meaning land of fogs.

The animal and vegetable world upon Atlantis differed from the present one as greatly as the human being of that time differs from modern man. The Atlantean's did not have high foreheads; their foreheads were flat and receded. The connection between the etheric and physical body of Atlantean were as follows: His etheric body protruded far, especially from the head. Human evolution consisted in fact that the etheric body gradually entered further into the head. The ancient Atlantean did not yet possess the capacity of abstract thinking, nor the power enabling him to say “I” to himself with a certain conviction. He had instead other highly developed faculties, for example the power of memory. The larger the anterior brain, the greater the intellectual power.

The Atlantean and was able to work in the outside world through his will. By a special volitional impulse he could stimulate the growth of plants, for his will-power exercised a magic influence. The Atlanteans lived in a state of dull clairvoyance. They did not see things materially, as we see them to-day, but in supersensible images. For this reason all their spiritual products have been imaginative-symbolical character.

In general, their civilization was quite different from those which followed. Particularly in the earlier Atlantean ages, they controlled the life-forces. They built machines which enabled them to rise from the ground and soar above it. But these gliding machines were propelled by the life-forces that lie concealed in plants. The vehicles of the Atlanteans were fed with grains of wheat, in the same way in which our railways are fed with coal. In this field many important discoveries will be made in the future.

Since the Atlanteans controlled the life-forces, they could build their houses out of trees which they bend at will. For their dwellings they only used living substances and no lifeless matter. The Atlantean was far more closely connected with Nature than modern man and his culture was a higher one. There was a city in which the highest Initiates lived which was spoken of in the ancient Mysteries as the city with the golden portals. At that time, also the way of teaching was different. By strong will-power, a suggestive influence was exercised upon the pupil.

The Atlantean still had a direct experience of how the divine essence flashed up in every phenomena of Nature. To him the breathing process was still something sacred and religious. In man all these religious feelings converged in a fundamental feeling. It's external sound has been preserved in the Chinese word “TAO”. Its sign, the ancient cross-symbol of the Tao is still preserved in Occultism.

The Lemurians were the forerunners of the Atlanteans; Lemuria sets forth a still more ancient stage of mankind's evolution. The conditions of the earth then greatly differed from the present ones, in view of the much higher temperature. The human being existed even at that time. This leads us to the relationship of animal and man. The human soul flowed together with the body towards the middle of the Lemurian age. Towards the end of Lemuria and upon Atlantis the human soul already lived upon the earth. But before, there was a time when the human being could not as yet have a soul within his physical body. The human soul then lived entirely in higher worlds, upon the astral plane. But we shall speak of this to-morrow.

Last Modified: 24-Apr-2021
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