Before the seventh trumpet is blown, a new vision is showed to John and to us. When the seventh trumpet will sound, the physical body will dissolve completely and only the spiritual part of man will live on. This is the Manas, the purified astral forces of our body, submerged in the love forces of the Christ, the Solar being in us. This is the part that will continue to live on the astral Earth, according to Steiner (26 June 1908). Here we arrive at a crucial moment in our spiritual development.
The angel with the little book
Again the strong angel comes forward. John sees how he descends from heaven, clothed with a cloud and the rainbow around his head, and his face as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire. And he had in his hand a little book, open. And he set his foot, the right, upon the sea, the left on the earth, and cried with a loud voice as a lion roars. And when he had cried, seven thunderclaps uttered their voices.
Schult (p.156) sees in this angel a reflection of the ‘Son of men’, shown at the start of the Apocalypse. Both have a face like the sun, and feet glowing like molten metal. The rainbow around his head remembers of the Christ on the throne, as presented in chapter 4. In this solar being we recognize the Christ sun, the inner sun that can save the human soul. His legs refer to the outward pillars of the Tree of Life, and the angel with the sun is the central pillar. All signs indicate that we have to do with archangel Michael, the archangel that is called the face of the Christ. He is going to initiate John in the higher Self.
The seven colors of the rainbow and the seven thunderclaps point at the seven planet spheres, according to Schult (p.157). Both pillars of fire, with which the angel stands on the sea and the earth, are old symbols for the heavenly zodiac, the yearly orbit of the sun. Here, the zodiac is not the zodiac of fixed star constellations, but of the orbits of the seven planets, the ring of force filled spaces which is formed by the sun and the planets. Here, the cosmic aura of the seven planets of the solar system is meant. This is what was perceived in both pillars of fire. The base of both pillars consisted of the planet Saturn, which dwells in winter near Capricorn and Aquarius.
One planet pillar, the pillar of the ascending light, leads from Saturn and the sign of Aquarius, through the spring orbit of the Sun upwards over the Jupiter sign Pisces, the Mars sign Aries, the Venus sign Taurus, and the Mercury sign Gemini to the summer solstice sign Cancer that is ruled by the Moon. Here, the planets are ordered according to the duration of their period of orbit around the Sun. The crown on the pillar of ascending light is the Moon and that is why this is called the Moon pillar. The Moon, the ruling light of the night, is closely associated with the water world and the consciousness during sleep and all processes that occur in water. For this reason the right pillar of fire of the angel rests on the sea. When the Moon is at its highest point in Cancer, this Moon pillar rises at the western side of the sky.
The second pillar of the descending light leads from the Saturn sign Capricorn, through the autumn and summer orbit of the Sun over the Jupiter sign Sagittarius, the Mars sign Scorpio, the Venus sign Libra, the Mercury sign Virgo till the sign Leo that shines in July and August. Also here, the planets are ordered according to the duration of their period of orbit around the Sun. The pillar of the descending light is crowned by the Sun and is therefore named the Solar pillar. The Sun as ruler of the day is associated with the daily consciousness and the Earth. For this reason the left pillar of fire rests on the earth. At the moment the Sun culminates in the south in Leo, the Solar pillar is found at the left side of the sky.
The Solar pillar and the Moon pillar of the zodiac stood, as the pillars of Joachim and Boas, for the entrance of the holiest of the temple in Jerusalem. The Tree of life and the Tree of knowledge in the Paradise story of the Old Testament are, amongst others, also symbols for the Solar and Moon pillars. Together they constitute the world star tree, the total zodiac. Only by uniting both trees they provide the entry to the temple. Both pillars of fire in the figure of the angel show the real depth of the Christ mystery. In these pillars light and darkness, birth and death, become public and one. Death itself becomes birth for the initiate.
Also Bock describes the appearance of the angel as the moment at which man, searching the initiation, stands before the threshold to the spiritual world. The archangel is the gatekeeper at the moment that man is leaving behind the physical body. The archangel reflects future man at the same time. The whole appearance of the angel expresses the transformation that is awaiting man and Earth. It is a cosmic picture, in which the feet planted on the sea and the earth visualize the change from the solid earth that is going to disappear to the sea as symbol of the supersensible astral world which man, wearing the seal, will enter. Both legs form as pillars of fire the gate through which man will enter the new spiritual life.
Bock sees the characteristics of the angel as qualities of the further developed human soul. The cloud clothing the angel is in his view a sign of his clear way of thinking. The rainbow a sign of his rich inner life. And the feet of fire show the forceful will with which future man walks on the earth. And his face, shining like the sun, represents the solar I which guides thinking, feeling and willing and let them work together.
The splitting up of the human soul at the threshold
Steiner (GA 346, p.202) calls the image of the angel standing on earth and sea the most meaningful of the Apocalypse for present man. The face, born from the clouds, shows the thoughts that belong to the Devachan or mental world. The rainbow and the related inner life of feelings, belong to the astral world. And the feet of fire, which derive their power from the earth, are related to the physical world. This shows the three aspects of the soul in conjunction with the coming crossing of the threshold. Steiner calls the splitting of these three soul aspects at the crossing of the threshold the secret of our culture: that cloud-people exist which can think only, rainbow-people which develop feelings in particular and fire-feet-people which act impulsively like a bull.
Cloud-people are more dominant in Asia, and are strongest in thinking. Rainbow-people are strongest developed in feeling and most frequently found in Europe, while the fire-feet people are most abundant in America and strongest in willing. The splitting of mankind, which also results from the strive for one’s own race and nation, is a sign of this inner trespassing of the threshold, which can only be cured by cosmopolitism (Steiner, 1924, GA 346, p.206). This cure for the divisions in the soul seemed to be reachable in the twentieth century by globalization but, from the start in the twenty-first century, national and racial divisions became again an issue. The divide between the three aspects of the human soul can only be cured by uniting mankind as a whole.
The little book
The little book in the hand of the angel remembers of the book on the lap of God. First, the book was sealed, now it is open. Which future developments will be revealed?
The angel cried with a loud voice as a lion roars. And when he had cried, seven thunderclaps uttered their voices. And after the thunderclaps had uttered their voices, I was about to write them; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me: Seal up those things which the seven thunderclaps uttered, and write them not!
The gatekeeper’s cry is answered by a sevenfold cosmic echo of thunderclaps and we may presume that the thunderclaps will initiate new waves of creation. John already prepares himself to write the new words down. But he is instructed to seal the things the thunderclaps uttered and not to write them. The mysteries of eternity can be perceived as experiences by man but not be communicated, says Schult (p.159).
The angel carries in his hand the book of books, the star-scripture of the heavenly zodiac. First the book with pictures of the future was sealed and opened, now the inspirations of the future remain sealed. But the angel at the threshold is able to perceive what is to come and he hears that the time for the development of the physical earth is coming to an end.
Time should there be no longer
The angel lifts up his hand in a dramatic and impressive gesture.
And the angel, which I saw stand upon the sea and on the earth, lifted up his hand, the right, to heaven and swore by him that lives from aeons to aeons, who created heaven, and the things that are therein, and the earth and the things that are therein, and the sea, and the things that are therein: Time should there be no longer.
The angel swears that time should there be no longer. Our present time will come to an end. Time makes place for eternity. When the seventh angel will blow the trumpet, reborn man will enter heaven and the temple in which God is no longer hidden. Time is related to the world of etheric forces that shape everything that lives and growths. The etheric body is a time being. When at the sounding of the sixth trumpet time stops to exist, the etheric body is excreted and in a transformed way absorbed in the astral world. At that moment the world still exists at the astral and mental realms. Although time ends here, the astral world has not yet reached eternity, this happens after reaching the mental world. In the astral world, fate is determined, it is the world of causality (Schult, p.159). Here, the earthly processes are transformed from a spiritual perspective. The normal sequence of time is reversed in the astral world. Moral qualities appear in a mirrored way. Here, first the effect is visible and subsequently the cause. This principle is the reason, why prophecies are possible.
The digestion of the little book
And he said to me: Take it and eat it up! And it shall make your belly bitter, but it shall be in your mouth sweet as honey.
John takes the book and eats it. This represents the transition to a higher consciousness. The knowledge which man could find in the exterior world is now going to work from within. Steiner (25 June 1908) explains that the book, the gospel, represents the force of love. That is the force John is taking in and is making to his own.
The Old Sun incarnation of the earth represented the ‘cosmos of solar power’ and the Old Moon was named ‘cosmos of wisdom’. In the same way our Earth incarnation is called ‘cosmos of love’. Man stands on both inheritances, both the pillar of power and the pillar of wisdom, when he is able on Earth to embrace love.
After clairvoyant abilities are opened for the initiates during the Seal epoch, and subsequently clairaudient qualities emerge during the Trumpet epoch, now the step follows of gradually opening the intuitive consciousness. This new consciousness and the participation in spiritual life will taste sweet as honey in the mouth, but it will also bring the torture of having to dwell in a lower body. The higher the spirit can rise in the realm beyond time and space, the more the body becomes a trouble and the heavier the responsibility presses to act from a spiritual perspective in the physical world
Schult (p.160) phrases the new phase of eating the book as follows: John receives from the angel the heavenly star-scripture as Communion. The open book that John receives is heavenly manna. It contains the same message as the eternal gospel that is later, in chapter 14 of the Apocalypse, given as message of the stars to all people. Here, John reaches the initiation phase of Manas, the earth-soul becomes spirit-soul, the astral body is purified. Man himself becomes a sacred scripture of God. Earthly knowledge becomes spiritual knowledge, the scorpion becomes an eagle. When the solar eagle spreads its wings and the Holy Spirit awakens in the human I, the sting of the scorpion, the lower self, has lost its power over man. Infinitely inspiring is the reception of the wisdom of the spirit, tasting sweet as honey in the mouth. But, when man starts to live according to this divine wisdom, the lower self has to be overcome time and time again, and all desires must be crucified with our will power. That is what makes the little book taste bitter in the belly. Steiner (GA 346, p.208) interprets the eating of the little book as follows. In the old times people saw outside themselves, in the exterior celestial scripture, the content of old traditions, the old wisdom. But nowadays we can only experience this as a life-giving truth when the source of truth wells up from our interior world and when we learn to perceive spiritually. We have to learn to measure everything from a spiritual point of view.