After opening the fourth seal, the keeper of the west appears, Nabu-Mercury, horseman on the pale green horse, with the name Death, and followed by Hades, the underworld with the spirits of the depth (Schult, p.116).
Among the four elements, air belongs to the west and Nabu-Mercury, the leader of the dead. In the west the entrance to Hades is found. Here the Sun trespasses the gate to the underworld. Air is the element that provides the connection between heaven and earth. In the east, Jupiter and the element of fire manifest the divine immortal spirit of man. In the west, Nabu-Mercury and the element of air represent the lower self of man, his earthly mercurial thinking. As we have seen, Nergal-Mars and the element of water do represent in the north the soul of passions, and Ninurta-Saturn and the element of earth represent in the south the physical body (Schult, p.117).
The four horseman are spiritual actors in man. This vision of John resembles to a large extend the vision with four groups of horses of the prophet Zechariah, where horse races inaugurate the new world year (Zechariah 6:1-8).
At the opening of the forth seal, it is shown that the downfall of the part of mankind, that is not touched by the Christ impulse of brotherly love, is continuing. Mercurial thinking is abstract, has isolated itself from its heavenly origin, and risks to become a pray of the powers of the underworld. The living is being dissected till only death remains. This colorless way of thinking removes itself from the inner being of man. A way of thinking saturated with forces of death no longer knows the holy. The last residues of cosmic perception, of the connectedness with paradise and the spiritual world, fade away. Only intellectual concepts remain that have no reality for God. The birth of abstract science in Europe signals the twilight of the gods (Schult, p.120).
Nabu-Mercury is not only the leader of the dead. As messenger of the gods he is also mediator between all lower and higher spheres. The symbol for Mercury is the circle, on top of it half a circle, and below it the cross.
This is a combination of the symbols for the Sun, the Moon and the Earth. If man can find the way between death and devil, he finds the spiritual light of the Messiah in the center of his being. A beautiful representation of this is given in the wooden statue of the Representative of Man of Rudolf Steiner and Edith Maryon. This statue shows how the Christ goes his way between Lucifer and Ahriman, the devil and the death. Nabu-Mercury, or Hermes-Thot, becomes, as a messenger of the gods, a mediator with sun quality, the fore-runner of the true man-in-God.
Or in other words, the coming of the Messiah in the Greek-Roman cultural period repairs in man the possibility of the immortality of the I. And what is not in conformity with this immortality has to become pray of death, as represented by the horseman on the pale horse (Schult, p.120).
Bock (p.111) reflects on the role of the horse and man as its rider. This learns man to lead the horse, symbol of one’s own thinking. Nowadays the horse has lost most of its former role in practical life to the car. The car, the mechanical horse, is also driven by man, but the car is much more limited in its inner qualities and more perfected in its outer qualities. It requires less and less guidance from man to travel to a destination. The self-conducting car will bring us to our destination while we are half asleep and no longer need the active use of our intelligence. The self-conducting care illustrates how our intelligence becomes abstract and cold. In the car-machine our thoughts have become independent from us. It brings the qualities of being a human asleep. That has many advantages in saving time, but the question is for what purpose we use the extra time. Is it used to express our self or to fall asleep? The pale horse is driven by Death. The white horse is driven by those following the call of the Messiah, to reach for Life.
Dullaart (p.53) associates the pale horse with an even more powerful counter-force than Lucifer or Ahriman, the force that wants to steel man’s I. We will meet this force later as Sorat. This makes man indifferent, depressed, committing senseless violence, and leading to a halt in one’s biographical development.
The being that speaks at the opening of the fourth seal, however, will as a result of true Christianity, generate a new religious flourishing, according to Steiner (GA 8, p.122).