Lectures to Priests: The Apocalypse
Dornach, 14 September 1924
We have placed the Apocalypticer's concluding perspective before our souls. If we understand it correctly we see that this last perspective is described in a way which is in complete agreement with everything one can say about evolution from the viewpoint of the most exact spiritual science. We saw that the building of cultural phenomena and of the human body changed from a below upwards mode to an above downwards mode, and that this is reflected in the Apocalypse. At the end of the last lecture I pointed out that if one honestly tries to understand the Apocalypse one must become acquainted with the things which can be said about world evolution from the viewpoint of spiritual research.
However, we see that a meaning is incorporated in certain places in the Apocalypse which one will find one can only grasp if one goes into the knowledge of the human being which is found in Anthroposophy. This is definitely the case when one has to do with a revelation which is based on experiences of the spiritual world. Of course one has to be able to see that the images which are presented in the Apocalypse are revelations from the spiritual world. Here one will disregard the question as to whether the Apocalypticer would really have been able to present all of the details which we rediscover in his work in an intellectualistic way, that is, whether he understood them to that extent. For that is not important at all. The only important thing is whether he is a real seer. He looks into the things in the spiritual world, but it's not he who makes them true, they are true through their own content, and they have this content and reveal it through themselves and not through him. So that even outer, rationalistic experts could come and could prove: The one who gave us the Apocalypse had this or that amount of education, and one cannot really expect him to have had these wide perspectives of things through his own soul. I don't want to discuss whether the writer of the Apocalypse had them here; I: just want to point out that this is not important. We must place the Apocalypticer's pictures which are revelations of the spiritual world before; our soul and we must let their content work upon us.
Now we have the magnificent concluding picture of the new Jerusalem before us, which has the experiential backgrounds of which I spoke. We will do well to go backwards from this picture a little bit. Here we have the important passage where another magnificent picture appears before our soul, namely, that magnificent picture where the Apocalypticer sees what he calls heaven open, and where a power approaches him on a white horse of whom he speaks in such a way that we become aware: he doesn't just have the trichotomy or the threefoldedness of the Godhead in his intellectuality — he has it in his whole I human being. He speaks in such a way that he is really still aware with his whole soul that one has the three forms of the one God before one, and that if one places oneself outside of the physical world one can alternately speak of the one or the other of them, because they intermingle.
Of course, when they're put into the physical World one gets a picture of three persons, so that one has to distinguish between the Father God who underlies all facts of nature, including the ones which work into human nature, the Son God who has to do with everything which leads to freedom in the soul's experience and the Spirit God who lives in a spiritual, cosmic order which is far away from nature and foreign to nature. This is how sharply contoured the three persons of the Godhead appear here upon the physical plane.
Now when man crosses the threshold to the spiritual world, he gets into the condition which I described in my book How Does One Attain Knowledge of Higher Worlds? where he splits up into three beings, so that thinking, feeling and willing become somewhat independent. However, if we go to higher worlds from the physical plane we see the triune Godhead approaching us ever more as a unity. And so of course, the Apocalypse must be read in this light. One shouldn't distinguish between the Father God, the Son God and the Spirit God as directly as one would do this in the physical world.
Thus the one who approaches us on a white horse in that magnificent Imagination is none other than the unified God. And in the form in which he is' the Son of God, we have to see Him more in the free soul development of human beings on earth. But now something very strange occurs, which is what makes the picture that comes before the concluding one seem very magnificent. It is quite natural and a matter of course that John sees heaven open — I will call the one who wrote the Apocalypse John — for the new thing which is descending from the spiritual world. The whole culture must be arranged in such a way that it comes down from the spiritual world to the physical world. Now if we place this before our soul correctly, then of course the condition which must precede this is that John looks into the spiritual world. But this means: heaven is opened for him. However, he wants to indicate a future situation which will exist for human beings. He's actually saying nothing less than the following.
Before that state of affairs will arise on earth where the spiritual ingredients for the building up of the new Jerusalem will sink down from the spiritual world and will be received by men — just as men previously raised material ingredients from the earth upwards — before this state will come, before men become aware that they must build from above downwards — as I said recently, he considers this state to be a real one — before this will come, the state of affairs where man is mainly engaged with his will will be replaced by another one where he is only concerned with knowledge and where he has to look into the spiritual world: heaven is opened. The one who underlies the beings of the world in a radiating and creative and sanctifying way appears. And now the significant reason which makes the picture so magnificent: He has a name written on him which is known to no one besides himself. That is very significant. When one comes to the place in the Apocalypse where this is written, one sees another clear sign that one is dealing with one of the greatest spiritual revelations. The name which is given to the ego varies considerably in various languages, but I have pointed to the spiritually trivial fact that the name for the ego can never be spoken by someone in such a way that it can be given to someone else. I cannot say I to someone else; this distinguishes the name of the self from all other names. They are given to objects, to either inner or outer objects. But when I say “I” in any language I can only say it to myself; I can only say it to another person if I have slipped into him — which must be a real spiritual process; but there is no need to speak about that now.
Now let's imagine the things which describe the self in various languages the self was not given a name in the older languages; it was in the verb. The ego was not a direct designation. One described oneself through what one did in a kind of demonstrative way, but no name for the self-existed. This name for the self of one's human being only began to be used later; it's a significant symbolic fact that the German word for I — “ich” — contains the initials of Jesus Christ. But now let's think of an enhancement of this fact that we have a name in our languages which every one can only say in connection with himself. The enhancement consists in what is now said in the Apocalypse — that He who comes down from the supersensible world has a name written on Himself where He not only is the only one who can use it to refer to Himself, but where He is the only one who understands it; no one else understands it.
Now just think that this Revealer approaches John showing him in a prophetic picture what will later occur for humanity. There He comes down in future times the one who has the name which He alone understands. What can all of this really mean? If one honestly wants to understand it, the whole thing seems to be meaningless at first. Why does He come, the one who is to bring the salvation of the world, the justice of the world all of this is written in the Apocalypse —, “who shall make faith and knowledge true;” not what the (King James version has: “was called Faithful and True”) but “who shall make faith and knowledge true.” This is really like hide-and-seek, for if He has an inscribed name which only He understands, what is that supposed to mean? It makes us ask a question which goes deeper. What is this really all about?
Imagine it quite vividly: He has a name which only He understands. How can we relate to this name? It should really acquire a significance for us; this name should really be able to live in us. How can this occur? It can occur if the being who understands this name becomes united with us and enters our own self, then this being in us will understand the name and we will understand it also. We will have Him in us and we will continually have the awareness of Christ in us. He is the only one who understands the things, which are connected with His being; but He understands them in us, and the Christ-insight of the Christ being in us gives the light which is rayed out in us, because He becomes this light in us, in our own being. It will be an insight which dwells in men.
You see, something has occurred thereby. The first thing which has occurred is an intended, necessary consequence of the Mystery of Golgotha. This being who went through the Mystery of Golgotha, this being who must enter us, so that we comprehend the world with his understanding and not with our understanding, this being wears a garment which is sprinkled with blood, the blood of Golgotha. And we take in this picture. However, John the Apocalypticer tells us that this garment which is sprinkled with the blood of Golgotha has a name. This is not the same name he was talking about before; this is the name of the garment which is sprinkled with blood. And the name of this vesture dipped in blood is the logos of God, the Logos, God, the word of God. Thus the one who should live in us and should give the light in us through his own understanding fills us with the word of God.
The pagans read the word of God in natural phenomena. They had to receive it through outer manifestations. Christians must receive the word of God or the Creative word by taking the Christ into themselves. The time will come when all human beings who take Christianity into their souls in an honest way will know through the course of the events that the word of God is with Christ, and that this word of God has its seed in the understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha and of the garment which is sprinkled with blood. Thus we have the Christ, enclosed in the Mystery of Golgotha in the language of the Apocalypticer.
However, a third thing appears. Christ in three forms: firstly, through himself, secondly through his garment, and thirdly through the deeds which he does for men on earth. Here again a condition is described which must set in, and which will of course not begin in such a way that one can point to a particular year but Christian development must move in that direction.
The third thing that our attention is drawn to is the sword with which he works, which is the sword of his will, the sword of his deeds, the sword of what he has done among human beings upon earth by living in them. But what he's doing now, what he does in his comings and goings, as it were, bears the third name: King of all Kings, Lord of all Lords. That is the third form. What is the nature of a king or the nature of a lord? If we go into the real inner meaning of the Latin word dominus, we arrive at what linguistic usage indicates in this case, quite independently of spiritual investigation: A lord is someone who is designated to give guidance to some other being on earth or in the whole world. 3ut how long will external lords be necessary upon earth? How long will one need the commands of outer lords upon earth and even the commands of external spiritual lords above the earth? Until that point in time when Christ lives in men with the name which only he understands. Then everyone will be able to follow Christ in his own being and in his own soul. Then everyone will try to realize in himself what man's will wants to realize out of inner love. Then the Lord of lords and King of kings will live in each individual.
Seen from an inner spiritual viewpoint, this is really the time in which we're living now. The fact that we're living in it is concealed by the fact that men are continuing to live in their old ruts, and they're really denying this indwelling of the Christ as much as possible, denying it as much as possible, they're denying it as much as possible in all fields. One can certainly say that a great deal exists in a large number of people today which is preparing in the right way for the etheric appearance of the Christ, who is a being that came down from the divine world. But men must prepare themselves by finding the source of their actions and deeds in themselves.
Therewith we really touch upon a difficulty with the present-day activities of priests out of the spirit of the Apocalypse. A priest should guide and direct in a certain sense. A priest has the faithful before him, and his priestly dignity presupposes that he, the leader, is a king over the ones he is to lead' in a certain way. He is the giver of the sacraments; he is the minister. On the other hand, we live in a time where men have the potential to take in the Christ to such an extent that they can become their own leaders ever more.
You see, this is the situation which the one who wants to become a priest gets into today. And yet the ordination of priests is fully justified today, completely justified. It's fully justified because although men really do bear something in them as an essence, it must be brought out of them, it must really be brought out of them. And one really needs everything which lies behind priestly dignity in order to bring out what is in human beings today. For we live in a time which really requires something quite definite. The outer world cannot really completely confront what is required here. For the outer world must deal with men insofar as they are bearers of a physical body. But it would be a terrible prospect if men — the way they are through our civilization, which hasn't arrived at the standpoint on which man is standing — would live over into the next earth life in this form.
We know that one tries to avoid this in the Anthroposophical sphere. Human souls are offered something whereby they are supposed to live over into the next incarnation with the things men are supposed to take in today. But this must become universally human. Men must develop an ego or an individuality with which they can live over into the next incarnation. This is only possible if what is given through the grace of sacrifice, through the grace of a sacrament is added to men's experiences. This doesn't separate men from their karma but it does separate them from what is clinging to them in a very intensive way today. Human beings are walking around with masks on. They're going around masked. And it can lead to tragic conflicts if the need arises at some point to really see human beings and their individualities.
Such a tragic conflict arises with Hölderlin, who once said: when he looks around in the world he sees Germans, Frenchmen, Turks and Englishmen, but no human beings, young, mature and old people but no human beings. And he enumerates more types. Men bear an extra-human stamp, as it were.
We need a priestly activity today which speaks to human beings as human beings and which cultivates humanity. Of course none of the present-day confessions can really do this. Just consider how dependent the confessions are. The community for Christian renewal must get beyond the dependency of these confessions. It must do this through its own destiny. No one who grows out of Anthroposophy is in the same position that priests are. That is a quite special position. And it is perhaps quite right to point to what is present here out of the spirit of the Apocalypse. Just consider that in every other activity which grows out of Anthroposophy today, people become dependent upon the outer world in some way through the powers that be.
If someone becomes a teacher out of Anthroposophy, one can see the tremendous obstacles which are put in their way. People deceive themselves about this. But we won't get a second Waldorf school, because they will set up the condition everywhere that all the teachers one hires must be approved by the state in some way. The Waldorf School could only come into existence because we started at a time when no such school law existed in Württemberg yet.
Take doctors: we cannot make doctors out of people in the Anthroposophical movement from scratch without further ado. To be sure, we could make doctors. But they wouldn't be recognized, they would not be accredited. To some extent we even have this difficulty in artistic things. It won't be very long before things will tend in the direction of what is happening in Russia, and people will demand a stamp from the state. A priest who grows out of the Anthroposophical Society is the only one who can strip everything off, as it were. It's all right if he learned something, but he throws off everything in his work. He's really laying the first foundation stone of the new Jerusalem in the theology which he supports; for he represents a theology which doesn't have to be recognized by anyone besides himself. That is the important thing.
You are the only ones who are in this position. You should also feel that you are in this position, and you will feel the specific quality of your priestly dignity. If one is dealing with a country like Russia they can drive out certain kinds of priests, but people in such a country will never do anything which would make it necessary for priests to get an official stamp of approval. For one will either leave priests the way they are, or one will not want them, which has already been realized in Russia as far as the tendency goes. Thus priests are the first ones who will be able to feel the approach of the new Jerusalem, the approach of the indwelling Christ, the Christ who becomes the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords.
Hence it is very good for a priest to dwell on this passage \in the Apocalypse, to dwell on it with an ardent heart and to develop the entire enthusiasm of his priestly soul which he should develop at this place in the Apocalypse. For the Apocalypse should not be a teaching; the Apocalypse should be life which works in each of our souls. We should feel that we are united with the Apocalypse. We should be able to place what we're working and living with into the stream of prophetic things in the Apocalypse. Here we see ourselves gathered around John the Apocalypticer, who has the vision Heaven has been opened, the one who only understands his name himself comes, the one whose garment bears the name the “word of God,” the one who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords — he comes. The priesthood which gathers around the John who sees this, the priesthood that unites itself with the cultic rite which has been drawn from the spiritual world, that raises up the transubstantiation in the sense of the Holy Spirit again, that has the new act of, consecration of man, the transformed old one which has taken the valid things from the old one, but which has taken on the form which flows out of the spiritual world today — this priesthood may gather around John the Apocalypticer, who looks up into the opened heaven.
For we are permitted to look at the inauguration which took placed in the room which the fire then took hold of —, we should look at it in the light which rays out here when heaven opens — the white horse comes out with the one who sits upon it and who only knows his name himself, who must be incorporated into us if this name is to mean something to us, and who has the other characteristics which are mentioned. This is how one should understand the Apocalypse, for the Apocalypse must be understood in a living way and not just with the top of one's head.
However, I would like to say that very deep wisdom is connected with the magnificent Imagination that appears here. Just consider what appears in close proximity to this significant vision, as it were. The reader is told how active the beast that I described is — the beast which induces human beings to go down from the spiritual to the physical, which the Apocalypticer divided into three stages; the beast whose one form is a materialistic way of living and not just a materialistic view of life. However, the Apocalypticer refers to two points in time. He tells us how the beast is overcome, and on the other hand he tells us that the adversary of mankind, the stronger adversary of mankind, is bound for a thousand years and is then released again for a short time. Thus we really have to do with two adversaries of the good principle, with the beast and with what is traditionally referred to as Satan.
Now the beast is overcome with respect to the outer physical world, in the sense that a spiritual world view can always be opposed to materialism. And Satan is chained at the present time in a certain way. But he will be released again. Satan is fettered, and anyone who sees through the important things in evolution knows that he is fettered. For if Satan was not chained at the present time and if everything which could really pour out the vials of wrath would appear — if Satan was not bound, — the connection between the materialistic way of living and the materialistic view of life which is present on earth today would show up in the outer world in a ghastly way. Then the people who proclaim materialism as a truth with the deepest inner cynicism today would arouse such a desire in the unbound Satan that one would see this extraction of the materialistic view and a materialistic way of living and their acquisition by Ahrimanic powers, one would see this as the most horrible and most terrible diseases.
If Satan was not bound one would not only have to speak of materialism as a view and a way of living, one would have to speak of materialism as the worst kind of a disease. Instead of this people go through the world with the cynicism and frivolity of materialism and even with religious materialism, and nothing happens to them. But the only reason nothing happens to them is because Satan is bound and the Godhead still makes it possible for one to come to spiritual things without succumbing to Satan. If Satan was here, many a teacher who is standing in some confession and is infected by materialism would be a terrible, gruesome sight for mankind. The idea which arises when one points to the possible disease of materialism, to the leprosy of materialism which would really be there if Satan were not bound, if one points to this, it certainly gives rise to a terrible mental image.
However, anyone who is aware of his spiritual responsibility towards knowledge today will not make use of such an idea within any other context than the context of the Apocalypse. I myself would not speak of the leprosy of materialism in any other context than in the one I'm speaking of it here, where I have to connect things with the Apocalypse and where the one who becomes familiar with the ideas of the Apocalypse has these gruesome pictures before him, which however definitely correspond to the real state of the spiritual affairs.
The Apocalypse should not only permeate, our life, it should also permeate our words. If we take in the Apocalypse it is not only an enlivening element in priests' work, it is something that, permits us to point to things which we otherwise point to in exoteric life. The Apocalypse should not only live with our ego, if we want to understand it, the Apocalypse also wants to speak in our words: and if you are real priests there will be some things which you will say to each other when you are in a room with other priests so that they will live in you and remain amongst yourselves. Then you will gain the strength to say the right words when you are standing before your faithful followers.
Priests are priests today because they are the first ones who may speak about the Apocalypse freely amongst themselves. This Apocalypse is a priestly thing, that is, it is a priests' book which is appended to the Gospels. You will become priests all the more, the more you find your way into the inner spirit of the Apocalypse. We will speak about this some more tomorrow.