Lectures to Priests: The Apocalypse
Dornach, 6 September 1924
We will now take a closer look at the connection between the act of consecration of man and apocalyptic things, so that we will then be able to approach the Apocalypse and to see its significance for the present and future activities of priests.
Yesterday we had to point to three past epochs of the mysteries, in so far as these mysteries tried to give each priest experiences which put him into an apocalyptic mood. We pointed out that there was a very ancient mystery period during which the gods descended into the mystery centers in order to work with human beings, and a semi-ancient mystery period when the gods sent down their forces, so that the men who lived in this sphere of forces were able to work with the gods in the cosmos.
One could say that the path was completely reversed during the third epoch when the mysteries were partly renovated. At that time man shaped and developed forces so that they could lead him up to the gods. We saw that man looked for a way up to the world's divine, spiritual forces through the intonation of magical words in cultic ceremonies. These words either worked directly upon the auditor's whole soul mood, so that he became aware of the spiritual activities of the gods in the words, or else magical words were spoken into the smoke in the way which was indicated yesterday, and the smoke drew Imaginations out of the words.
This development of a certain religious feeling, which one can really only describe separately, always went parallel with a certain condition or a certain kind of transubstantiation which was the center of the holy act of consecration of man. Priests are now being called upon to experience this transubstantiation and everything else that is connected with their activities in a new way. They will not be able to do this very well without an understanding of what transubstantiations and apocalypses were really like in each of these four successive periods of human evolution.
One thing we have already seen is that the act of consecration of man and its transubstantiation process involves a working together of human beings and the gods in the spiritual world. Priests cannot really work properly unless they're aware that men and the gods can work together.
If we take another look at the oldest form of transubstantiations and acts of consecration of man we find that the gods found the way to men at certain times that are really differences between what one can calculate in the course of time and what the cosmos does. The gods descended during such blank or holy times when men must add something to the times they calculated because their calculations are incorrect. In these times men had to expose themselves to cosmic influences directly in order to carry our transubstantiations, and they saved what had occurred in the substances during such times in order to carry out transubstantiations with the preserved things that had been transformed by forces from the cosmos.
The right place for priests and lay brothers to be in for these transubstantiations at that time was a cave or a grotto. And in fact, wherever people were fully aware of the presence of the gods and of the significance of transubstantiations in the ancient mysteries, we see that they tried to carry out the sacred rites in subterranean rock temples or caves.
The fact that they tried to do this is connected with the experiences which priests had during the transubstantiations. A transubstantiation consists of a transformation of the given earthly materials. If one wants to understand the process completely one should add the communion or the ingestion of the transformed substances by the human being to it, so that actually the two last parts of the act of consecration of man, transubstantiation and communion, constitute a unity, whereas the gospel reading and the offering are a preparation for them. Taking transubstantiation and communion as a unified priestly or cultic act, let's look at a view which the initiates we call fathers had in the oldest mysteries.
The “fathers” refers to the father grade of initiation, and this name is still given to priests in many confessions today, — pater. Now when a priest carried out a transubstantiation in his earth or rock temple, he experienced the union of his physical organism with the whole earth. This is why they had the temple underground or in a rock. Today we can also feel united with the surrounding cosmos in our ordinary earthly consciousness as we live between birth and death, and this has been the case during the whole time that mankind has been evolving on earth.
The air which is in your body now was outside it a moment ago, and it will soon be outside again. The air which is outside your body and the air inside your body constitute a whole. The real state of affairs is that there is an aery ocean, and when man inhales, one part of this aery ocean becomes transformed in the human being. The air is absorbed, and it penetrates and fills man and thereby assumes a human form. Then this form immediately dissolves again in the ocean of air. An aeriform man is continually being created and destroyed, although one is usually unaware of it.
However, Indian yogis knew about it whenever they did their conscious breathing exercises. They didn't feel separate from the earth's ocean of air; they felt that they were united with it, and they felt this creation and destruction at each systole and diastole. One can easily experience this by doing these breathing exercises, although they are no longer appropriate for men today.
However, man is not just a man in connection with physical, earthly things. Although he is an earthly man where the so-called physical, body is mainly active, he is also a fluidic man. The whole human being is filled with circulating fluids which work upon each other. This fluidic man is mainly dependent upon the ethers. For the forces in the etheric body work more upon fluids and not so much upon solids.
We also bear an aery man and a warmth man in us. This aery man, which takes care of respiration, is controlled by the forces of the astral body. And the warmth man: you need only recall that if you measure some place on the surface of your body or inside it with a thermometer, you get different temperatures. This crude procedure already shows one that man is a differentiated warmth organism. The latter is mainly under the influence of the ego — organization or ego.
Thus, we find four elements in man. Earth is under the influence of the physical body, water is influenced by the etheric body, air is under the influence of the astral body, and warmth or fire is under the influence of the ego.
The transubstantiations and communions which the ancient fathers carried out made them feel that their physical body was connected with the earth, when they had gone into their rock temple or earth temple, in order to unite themselves with these earthly developments. What actually happened here? Alan's supposedly scientific view of himself today is really wrong; it is really complete nonsense. We must rethink all of our ideas about human beings. The ancient fathers received the right ideas about man through direct perception when they carried out transubstantiations during sacrificial rites which consecrate human beings.
They knew that we don't just breathe air in through our respiratory organs, but that we are continually taking in all kinds of substances from the cosmos through our sense organs. All kinds of substances are continuously being taken in through our hair and skin. Just as someone who is watching his breathing feels that air is entering his respiratory organs, so the ancient priest felt that substances passed over from the siliceous environment of the consecrated subterranean temple and penetrated his nerve-senses system just as aery man feels the air which is going through him, for when he breathes in a conscious way he can feel that these substances permeate his entire organism. The priests knew that none of the substances in the metabolic-limb man come from what we eat. Nothing of what one eats becomes part of the metabolic-limb man. One takes in substances from the cosmos. The whole modern nutritional theory is really wrong. The celebrating father felt that what is eaten and then transformed by the digestive system passes over from the metabolic man to the nerve-senses man and especially to the head. He knew that what you eat is transformed into the substances of your head and what is connected with it. But the substances which become the organs that take care of your metabolic functions are taken in from the cosmos by a finer breathing. Thus he felt that his metabolic-limb man consisted of cosmic substances which are taken in from all sides through the senses and nerves. And he felt that the food that one eats and transforms goes the opposite way and becomes the upper man.
When a father carried out a transubstantiation he had a current in him which flowed upwards and another one which flowed downwards. Then when he took communion he knew that he was connected with the cosmos, because he had become aware of his physical body by means of these streams. He had become united with the earth and he united what he had prepared at the altar with his body, with currents that belong to both the earth and his body, and with divine things on the earth which are a reflection of the universe.
He knew that he was united with the outside universe. He knew that the meal which he had taken in in this way was a meal which his cosmic man had completed. He felt that his divine man arose through what streamed into the current which went upwards and the one which went downwards, and that it could be a companion of the gods who had descended. He felt that the gods had transformed him into a divine human being in his physical body, that is, he felt that he had been transubstantiated. And at this moment he could say from the depths of his heart: Now I am not the one who walks around in the physical world; I am he in whom the descended god lives; I am he whose name includes all sounds and who was at the beginning, is in the middle and will be at the end. I am alpha and omega.
The extent to which he could really participate in the secrets of the cosmos, in the divine working and creating in the cosmos, and in the manifestation of forces, substances and beings there while divine, spiritual work was being done, depended on the way his inner life was shaped by this feeling. This is the way priests worked in the ancient mysteries.
If we go on to the semi-ancient mysteries we find that holy water and washing and sacrificial actions which are connected with water had become very important, and also that the temples had been moved aboveground. They were no longer put into subterranean caves out of the same longings as before, or if they were placed there it occurred through tradition and it was no longer understood in a living way, and it was precisely for this reason that the tradition lived on, even though it had lost its living content.
Such traditions also remained with regard to the dipping of people into the dew, as it were. What the priest did at baptisms was less dependent upon the actual watery element than upon the Inner force which he applied during the sacrificial action in order to unite the fluidic man in whom the forces of the etheric body were active with the universe.
When a transubstantiation was being carried out and one observed things which involved the fluidic element before or after it in the act of consecration, one felt that the etheric organization was working in a temporal way. While the transubstantiation was being carried out one felt that one's growth since childhood had occurred under the influence of the fluidic element in one, and that the etheric body was active in this streaming from the past through the present and into the future.
In ancient times priests felt that their physical body was connected with the earthly element, and during the less ancient mysteries the one who performed transubstantiations felt united with the watery element which exists in the whole universe. He felt the growth forces of all creatures sprouting, germinating, growing and unfolding in him into fully developed organisms and then contracting into seeds again. He felt this sprouting, shooting living and dying activity whenever he carried out a transubstantiation.
At every moment he could say to himself: Now I know how creatures come into being in the world and how they die. For both ascending and descending etheric forces were active in him. He could, as it were, feel eternity in the sacred transubstantiation.
The priest who was performing a communion in conjunction with a sacred act of transubstantiation knew that the substances which were transformed in the way we described yesterday were absorbed by his etheric, fluidic man. He felt that he was united with everything which preserves immortality in the universe and with everything which is created and born or is killed and destroyed. Birth and death wafted over the altar and from there into the faithful who were assembled. The priest became permeated with feelings of eternity. This permeation with feelings of eternity had replaced the previous feeling of being united with the whole cosmos through the earth.
Then when the third epoch of holy acts of consecration arose, man was to experience his union with the aery element and thereby with the cosmos. Oriental yogis could become aware of the streaming of divine, supersensible world forces in inhalation and exhalation in a different way and for their own personal development. They took hold of breathing in a direct way.
People intoned magical words into their breath in Europe, and to a lesser extent in Asia Minor, but they didn't take hold of the undifferentiated breath directly. Thereby the breath or the air streaming in and out of them was taken hold of by magical, cultic words. The striving up of magical forces towards divine ones became manifest indirectly in what was spoken into the sacrificial smoke, or directly in what was experienced in the intonation of the magical, cultic words. Whenever someone prays, he is basically trying to ascend to divine, spiritual regions with his forces, and these people felt that when they intoned magical, cultic or prayerful words they were ascending to a region where they met the gods. When someone intones things, the godhead becomes manifest and speaks in the cultic words, so that it's not he who is speaking anymore. The godhead was now revealing itself in the aery element. Man felt that he was in something which controls the forces in the air from his own astral body.
The transition from the second, semi-ancient mystery epoch to the third, partly new mystery epoch was a large one. In ancient times fathers experienced things in their physical body. This involved an intensification of its activities. The sun priests of the second epoch experienced an enhancement of their etheric or fluidic body. When a priest intoned cultic words in the third epoch he experienced the streaming of divine spiritual forces in his astral body. The astral body of the average person was only a mediator of consciousness to a very slight extent. At the beginning of the third epoch a priest could still say: when I speak magical cultic words, a god is speaking in me. However later on this awareness diminished. The new consciousness which arose was unaware of the astral body's activities. Today, ordinary consciousness is completely oblivious to the latter. The verbal content of the ritual gradually became something which made qualified people aware of the gods' presence, whereas unqualified people were unaware of what was connected with the intoned words. The latter was increasingly the case for a large number of priests who were active in Catholicism.
Hence it gradually came about that the act of consecration of man or mass became something that the priest celebrated, although he himself was not present in it. However, one cannot celebrate with words or intone words which have aery beings incorporated in them in such a way that there is no spirituality there. Spiritual things immediately appear whenever something material is being shaped. And so if an act of consecration is celebrated with real cultic words by even the most unworthy priest, his soul, may be absent but something spiritual is present. So the fact is that if the liturgy is correct, the believers who are listening to it are participating in a spiritual event under all circumstances.
While things were developing like this at the end of the third epoch, some of the Protestant confessions which were working in a more rationalistic way thought that they could throw the mass out altogether. They were no longer aware of the significance of cultic rites or of a real collaboration between gods and men.
This inner circumstance then led to the time in which we are living. There was less and less understanding for the act of consecration of man which brings the divine, spiritual life right down to earth. People no longer understood the apocalyptic things which the rites were supposed to take one experience. This is basically the experience you had when you came one day and said: A Christian renewal must occur. You felt that the religious life of all the confessions and other things that exist in our civilization had become separated from real spiritual things in the real spiritual world. You were looking for the path to the real spiritual world again. This impulse can show us the way and can lead us into the depths of the mysteries, which are connected with apocalyptic things.
So we saw that in the first epoch transubstantiation was connected with experiences with the physical body, in the second epoch the connection was through experiences with the etheric body and in the third epoch through experiences with the astral body. The grasping of apocalyptic things and of the act of consecration by the ego of mankind depends upon you and your inner experience of the working and weaving of spirituality in the world. Therewith we only have a right view of what should be done by this movement for religious renewal if we look upon what is to be done as the carrying out of a task which has been given us by the supersensible world and as a task which places what one does at the service of supersensible powers. For if you don't take your task seriously enough, what you do will come to nothing in the present evolution of the world, and it will only have been a kind of disturbance. Or else you will see how deep and profound your task is and you will Immediately feel that this task is connected with the activity of the gods throughout earth evolution, and not just with human activities. In that case you can say: we are called upon to help with the shaping of the fourth mystery epoch in human earth evolution. This task will only be placed in the service of the powers in the spiritual world from whom the content of the ritual flowed two years ago when we were assembled here, if you have the courage, strength, seriousness and perseverance to find your way into your task in this way. Only then will what you took upon yourselves through the content of this ritual, which is a revelation from the spiritual world and which radiated down upon you as such, become real.
Then you will increasingly sense and feel: it's really the case that Christ came into earth life in a real cosmic and tellurian ritual. The Mystery of Golgotha is present as a real ritual. In our time man must first unite this ritual with his ego; for the first commemorations of the Lord's Supper were still immersed in the third mystery epoch, when the astral body took in and controlled the cultic activities which occurred in the aery element. But now it's a question of connecting one's innermost core with the Christ so that each human being can begin to understand apocalyptic things in a new way.
How did one look upon apocalyptic things in the first mystery epoch? One experienced them as the presence of the gods, which are the beginning, the middle and the end, alpha and omega.
How did one look upon the presence of divine forces in the second mystery epoch? One experienced them as something which resounds through the world as the music of the spheres, and which lives in the cosmic word that created everything and that creates in everything, and which streams from the heavens to the earth. One experienced what is at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of time simultaneously, as it were. One experienced the alpha and the omega in the cosmic, world word. Whenever the subject of the Greek alpha and omega, the first and the last, came up in this or that epoch, people always tried to find out what the first and last letters of various alphabets really contain.
And how did one understand apocalyptic things during the third mystery epoch? One understood apocalyptic things in such a way that people were developing cultic words which were still half conscious. Apocalyptic things were perceived during the third epoch when these half-conscious cultic words transubstantiated themselves as they were being intoned and when things were as follows. Most of you have probably heard some music on a day when your soul and senses could be entirely receptive to the impressions of the outer world, and then you fell asleep and woke up in the middle of your sleep. It was as if you lived in a surging back and forth, but in a transformed surging of the symphony you heard during the day. This is the way it was for priests in the third mystery epoch.
What happened to them is comparable to the trivial thing I just mentioned. They celebrated the act of consecration with cultic words, and they experienced that the godhead appeared in them. They had sent the cultic words up and the godhead had streamed into them. Then they left the sacred ritual in an appropriate mood. They not only experienced the presence of divine spirituality in human, cultic words during the act of consecration of man, but afterwards, they experienced a supersensible echo of what they had spoken in the liturgy of the mass. These transubstantiated, transformed words streamed towards them and revealed apocalyptic things.
The god revealed apocalyptic things as a counter present for an appropriately celebrated sacrificial rite. This is how one experienced apocalyptic things during the third mystery epoch.
The one who felt that he had been made into a priest, by Christ Jesus himself, namely, the author of the book which we want to study, the Apocalypse, was more or less the first to feel that an apocalyptic content merged with his ego, — and only very few people have experienced this since. For it was the astral body which received the echo that. I mentioned, where the god gave apocalyptic things as a counter present for words. However, the one who wrote John's Apocalypse felt that his fully conscious ego was united with the content which he had given the Apocalypse.
The priest who wrote the Apocalypse and who felt that he had been anointed by Christ Jesus himself, was inspired by the afterglow of ancient Ephesian rituals, and he felt as if he were continuing frequent celebrations of this ancient act of consecration up to an advanced age. One day he felt that the ego which had been completely filled with the significance of the sacred ritual was now also completely filled with an apocalyptic content.
Hence John expressed his Apocalypse in the same way that one says the single word “I” in one's ordinary consciousness. When a human being says “I” he is expressing his inner nature with a single sound. The only thing which can be meant by this is what the individual human being is. But this one thing has a large content. This large content is the content of apocalyptic things.
If everything which religious feeling can give a meditating soul and if all the enlightenment which is gained by energetic effort and by a striving towards an understanding of the supersensible can work in men's spirits, — if all of this is oriented in the way it can be oriented and if we let ourselves be stimulated by everything that can stimulate us through a contemplation of the three past mystery epochs which can become the inspirer of the fourth one, and if we let ourselves be stimulated by what was outlined in an introductory way yesterday and today, that is, by what lived in the first, second and third mystery epoch which was the living inspirer of the fourth, and if we let the power of the Spirit God — which is possible again today work in our souls — we will be able to experience that there is not just one Apocalypse but that there are numerically just as many apocalypses as there are human, God-fearing, priest's egos in the priest-renewal who speak to the Christ who is to be found again through this Christian renewal.
There is only one apocalypse from a qualitative point of view, but from a numerical viewpoint it can become the content of the soul of each individual priest. Conversely, every single soul that undergoes the act of consecration of man, so that it prepares the ego to become identified with the content of the apocalypse, can become a proper priestly soul. We are egos as human beings. We become priests in the modern sense of the word if the ego becomes aware that it is creating a copy of the Apocalypse at every moment in life, so that it isn't just something which is finished and printed in the bible, and it isn't just memorized by heart. Take the following analogy. Someone gives the content of a book. It is sent to the printers. This might seem like a pedantic, philistine analogy, but it's useful nevertheless. The book is printed and a large number of copies go through the world which are different, although they all have the same content. What you are referred to right at the beginning of the Apocalypse is a single thing and what Christ revealed to John is a single thing. For this is “The revelation of Jesus Christ” which was received by “his servant John.” There is only one content, but it is multiplied by those who recreate this content in themselves after they have been prepared through the wisdom of supersensible worlds.
This is an understanding of John's apocalyptic things. In the deeper sense of the word, this also amounts to an understanding of the words: Christ has ordained us to be priests. You have felt how the Apocalypticer says that Christ Jesus anointed him to be a priest; one becomes anointed as soon as one feels how the content of the Apocalypse arose in John and as soon as one feels that people want to become priests today by creating the Apocalypse in themselves so that they experience that their ego is in the Apocalypse. If the ego becomes apocalyptic, the ego is priestly. We will take this up again tomorrow.