Kees Zoeteman

In the summer of 2019 the book Apocalypse im Ich (Apocalypse in the Self) (ISBN 978-3-7235-1612-6, Verlag am Goetheanum, Dornach, Switzerland) was published. It contains eight contributions, consisting of revised lectures on the Apocalypse at a meeting in November 2017 at the Goetheanum in Dornach. In the foreword, editors Christiane Haid and Jaap Sijmons make a connection between the wave of hyper-intelligent initiatives of our time, that can introduce the beginning of an era focused on Transhumanism, and the images that the Apocalypse offers in order not to evade the struggle for and survival of the spirit of man.

The self is the spiritual core of sustainability

The book deals with various aspects of the Apocalypse, which are not all equally close to the core questions of our time. However, there are some noteworthy moves to get to the heart of these challenges of our time and to identify the questions of good and evil in the light of the Apocalypse. Wolf-Ulrich Klünker, for example, identifies as the core of the Apocalypse the new existence of the self of man, with which people are on their way to become an angel, and which forms the basis for the further development of the world. It is only when mankind becomes unaware of this central role and renounces it, that the doomsday scenarios described in the Apocalypse take shape. The I must increasingly penetrate nature and the world as his own body. ‘At this moment we are witnessing the unleashing of forces in the world if it is not understood as an organism of the self, also in the social sphere’. Here, Klünker comes to a very important conclusion that touches the spiritual core of what is meant by the concept of sustainability. 

Jaap Sijmons

Jaap Sijmons discusses the role played by the Apocalypse in the work of Rudolf Steiner and introduces the other lectures in passing. All his life, Steiner has been concerned with the Apocalypse and its fruits can be found in the lectures he has given in the course of his life. Sijmons paints how Steiner in his first lectures emphasizes the place of the present in the great evolutionary process of mankind and the mystery character of the life of Jesus Christ. Towards the end of his life, Steiner emphasizes more and more emphatically that now is the time for the I in man to decide whether or not to follow the path of John. And this path goes from thinking to experiencing inner images and inspirations, and finally to intuitively experiencing the Apocalypse in the ego. Sijmons divides Steiner’s lectures into four stages. The first stage consists of the cycle Steiner holds in Berlin in the winter of 1901-1902 for a theosophical audience. From this cycle he then writes the book Das Christentum als mystische Tatsache und die Mysterien des Altertums (1902, GA 8). Sijmons sees the climax of this book in the chapter on the Apocalypse. Steiner emphasizes here that the role of Christianity is to be a means of making the initiation, as it took place in the classical mysteries, accessible to everyone. Yes, Jesus Christ himself is that revelation. However, the Jews saw the revelation of the mysteries of initiation as betrayal that had to be punished with death. The second stage is formed by the seven apocalyptic images that Steiner designed, which encompass the Apocalypse as a whole, largely following Eliphas Levi (Doctrine and Ritual of Higher Magic, 1854). Steiner had these seven images hung on the walls during the International Theosophical Congress in Munich in 1907. These seven large seals paint: 1) the son of man (fragment 3), 2) the four animals and the 24 elders for God’s throne (fragment 11), 3) the opening of the book with 7 seals and the sounding of the 7 trumpets (fragments 12-28), 4) the great angel standing on land and sea who donated the now opened book to John (fragment 29), 5) the pregnant woman clothed with the sun, moon under her feet, stars on her head, and the dragon threatening her child (fragment 33), 6) Michael chaining the dragon, 1000-year kingdom (fragment 53), and 7) the heavenly Jerusalem as a cube (fragment 55). Steiner is the first to release the seventh seal. It was still missing in the texts of Eliphas Levi. In other lectures in this period of 1904-1907 (GA 90a and b) Steiner also emphasizes that the Apocalypse is a book of initiation and shows that the Apocalypse contains the same secrets as those known from the Greek, Egyptian and Persian mysteries, but now adds the role of Jesus Christ as initiator. While the ancient mysteries were only accessible to individual chosen people, the Christian mystery is universally accessible. The third stage follows in 1908 in which Steiner gives a cycle on the Apocalypse in Nuremberg, in which the relationship with the development of mankind and the role of anthroposophy are more central. While in 1907 the imaginations were at the forefront of the opening of the seals, in 1908 it are the inspirations that lead to new insights into world development, such as the significance of the seven communities as representatives of the cultural periods. The fourth stage includes the deepening that Steiner gives in relation to understanding and doing of the Apocalypse during the cycle for the priests of the Christian Community in Dornach in 1924 (GA 346).  Sijmons notes how Steiner is calling his audience to understand the meaning of the Apocalypse in the life of the individual human being, in the ego. And so it comes to a call to bring the Apocalypse in the will and to act. Hence also the title Apocalypse im Ich.  Then, Jaap Sijmons concisely summarizes the message of each of the seven great seals. The first seal represents the idea of mankind. In the second, the Lamb appears as the savior of man and nature in the astral world. The third seal reveals the sealed book and shows the actual initiation into the lower mental world (Devachan). In the fourth seal all matter is transformed into spirit. Man must become an embodiment of wisdom, which is represented by eating the book. In the fifth seal man overcomes the animal aspects and becomes a solar being when the Sun unites with the Earth, and the Moon can no longer exert any influence. At the sixth seal spiritualized man comes to the moral height of Archangel Michael and chains the dragon. The seventh seal is the comprehensive seal of the holy grail, the new Jerusalem.  Here, the throat becomes a creative organ and the grail appears as the image of the dove, the world spirit. And around the seal the Rosicrucian spell is indicated with ten letters. This is also a reference to John who was reincarnated in Christian Rosencreutz, according to Steiner. Sijmons concludes that Rudolf Steiner has consistently explained the Apocalypse from the physical, imaginative, inspirational and finally the I perspective, during the four stages in which he spoke about the Apocalypse. 

Peter Selg

Peter Selg deals in particular with what Sijmons mentioned as the third stage, the cycle at Nuremberg in 1908. The town of Nuremberg is a historically interesting setting because Albrecht Dürer published here his famous woodcarvings on the Apocalypse in 1498. This cycle also takes place on the eve of the First World War and later Steiner will refer to it as an aid to explaining the horrors of the war and what the fruits of this war are. He also refers here to the manifestation of the impacts of capital and credit as ahrimanic means, based on increasing capital as a force in itself which has to grow at the expense of the personal qualities of man and of the development of the higher self in man. Steiner also shows that technological inventions such as the telephone, the train, the steamship, and everything else that was coming, absorb an incredible amount of human spirit power in order to satisfy man’s lower needs. But that spirit power is therefore not available for the higher spiritual development. Thus, the human has already begun to descend into the abyss of materialism, and the personality is in increasing danger of being fragmented and unable to ascend to the spiritual world. The spiritualization of the ‘fallen intelligence on earth’, led by Michael, points the way up. The foundation for a new sixth cultural period, after our fifth culture, is the meeting of the spirituality of the East with the intelligence of the West and the formation of a new community based on brotherhood.  

Virginia Sease

The next chapter of Virginia Sease deals with the 24 elders around the throne in art history. She makes a connection with nine liturgies that were in circulation in Europe as a mirror of the celestial liturgy that the 24 elders and the four animals around God’s throne accomplish and the special fact that they sing a new song. Mentions of these 24 elders can be found in the oldest writings and images have been applied until the Middle Ages in Bibles, as murals and on portals of church buildings. This was also important because the majority of the population was illiterate.  Sease quotes Steiner who explains that the 24 elders are seen as regulators of time, who have accomplished the road that man must still travel. 

Mechtild Oltmann

Mechtild Oltmann’s contribution deals with the role of the human self. The urge for autonomy becomes stronger in every newly born human being, as can already be seen in children. This, in her view, makes the question ‘Why did God allow this to happen?’ after a disaster has taken place, no longer relevant. After all, the autonomous human being is responsible for everything himself or herself. Herein lies the power that Christ brings to man. In Nuremberg, Steiner already mentioned that evil, as well as good, will come to a climax. She sees the signs of this in this day and age. Then, Oltmann discusses what has been said about evil in the Apocalypse from chapter 13 onward, where the triple forms of evil are revealed. The dragon thrown on Earth by Michael is hardly discussed by her. Her attention goes more to the beast that rises from the sea and especially to the beast that rises from the earth, the anti-Christ. She typifies this last beast with the two horns in its seemingly innocent behavior, so that it is not recognized in its true nature. She mentions examples of this in expressions such as: ‘Everyone does that anyway’ or ‘I have only done what I was ordered to do’. In the Apocalypse, the characteristic of the beast with the two horns is that he ‘speaks like a dragon’. And through speech and the spreading of false truths he attacks the actual creative power of man: the word. Oltmann also associates the beast with the two horns with the false prophet. I have some doubts about this. Doesn’t the false prophet mean a luciferic aspect of evil? And shouldn’t we look for the anti-Christ to Satan who, after the beast and the false prophet, is the last one to be thrown in the pool of fire? Oltmann further discusses the third evil as the opponent of the I. The core skills of the ego are freedom and love. The anti-Christ wants to suppress these qualities of man by taking the place of the ego in man by making man possessed of himself, for example by making man dependent on him through addictions. In opposition to this evil, however, there is also the power of the good, the strong Self, which is able to forgive. She concludes that the strength, with which also the strongest force of evil can be overcome, lies in the possibility to recognize this evil on the one hand and on the other to oppose it on the level of the Self.   

Christiane Haid

Christiane Haid focuses mainly on the sign in heaven described in chapter 12: the pregnant woman clothed with the Sun and threatened by the dragon. This primal image has been depicted for thousands of years, as in the Isis and Horus myth and in the images of Mary with child. It harks back to ancient mysteries in which the Christ was sought in the Sun and where one experienced a foretaste of the mystery of Calvary. But it also points to the future when the I in man takes charge of what is happening in his soul, depicted by the woman, due to dragon forces. Haid points in this connection to Rudolf Steiner’s lectures on the also physically perceptible battle in heaven between Michael and the spirits of darkness (Ahriman and his followers) in the middle of the nineteenth century (1917, GA 177). These dark spirits have lived among us on earth ever since, sending us their impulses in our mind, heart and will power. It illustrates that we have to consider our own soul as the battlefield for these forces. After all, it is most dangerous when we are unconsciously handed over to these forces in our souls. The power of Michaelic thought, represented in the eagle’s wings that the woman receives when she is in the desert and chased by the dragon, is a help to overcome the danger of becoming entangled in matter.   

Wolf-Ulrich Klünker

In a short, but no less interesting, contribution Wolf-Ulrich Klünker also discusses the I. Klünker sees the Apocalypse as the book that shows how the self of man is touched by the spiritual Self, the Manas. He believes that this is the central theme of the Apocalypse for our time. The new existence of man’s self, which is on its way to becoming an angel, forms the basis for the further development of the world. It is only when mankind becomes unaware of this central role and renounces it, that the doomsday scenarios described in the Apocalypse take shape. For the new nature and the new cosmos, the sensibility of an awakened I in man is required. The I must increasingly penetrate nature and the world as his or her own body. At this moment we are witnessing the unleashing of forces in the world if it is not understood as an organism of the I, also in the social field. Here, Klünker comes to a very important observation that touches the spiritual core of what is meant by the concept of sustainability. The unleashing of uncontrolled forces shows itself, for example, in the difficulties to curb climate change and the associated hunger, floods, migratory flows, and the temptation to return to nuclear power. 

Vicke von Behr and Anand Mandaiker

The book concludes with two short contributions by Vicke von Behr and Anand Mandaiker taken from greetings they uttered at the beginning of the meeting in November 2017. Behr recalls, among other things, an answer by Rudolf Steiner to a question where the activity of the beast rising from the sea, which represents Ahriman, has the strongest effect on the human soul at this time. Steiner then mentioned (now a century ago) the cinema and the typewriter (GA266/3 p.434). And it is precisely at this point that the resulting social media technology has progressed most spectacularly. It is up to us to understand our time from the imagery of the Apocalypse and to use our own I-power against it, in short to take on our spiritual kingship, according to Mandaiker.