The images and descriptions in the Book of Revelation have long been a source of inspiration for artistic representation. Well-known are the fifteen woodcuts published by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) in 1498, depicting various scenes from the Book of Revelation,
The seven apocalyptic seals of 'Revelation':
- were designed by Clara von Rettich for the 1907 theosophical congress in Munich on the basis of earlier drawings by Eliphas Levi and sketches and indications by Rudolf Steiner. Two versions exist of von Rettich's paintings, one from 1907 and another from 1911.
- Arild Rosenkrantz (1870-1964) painted the seals for the first time in 1923 under the personal guidance of Rudolf Steiner. They were published in 1924 in black and white in an English portfolio edition 'Occult Seals and Columns'.
- Rudolf Steiner's own interpretation of the seals from 1907 can be found in John Fletcher's 'Art inspired by Rudolf Steiner” (1987), see also Volume GA284 'Rosicrucianism Renewed: The Unity of Art, Science and Religion. The Theosophical Congress of Whitsun 1907'
The seven apocalyptic seals were made by esoteric and rosecrucian schools, and depict images of the Revelation and stages of Man's development and the purpose of evolution.
- 1st seal: Man as a future creative God - see explanation below and Schema FMC00.179 on The human heart as a future organ
- 2nd seal: past group souls and Christ as future group soul of humanity - see Schema FMC00.348 on Group souls of humanity and Second Adam for explanation
- 3th seal: Man back to the spirit world - see Schema FMC00.350 and explanations below on this page
- 4th seal: the Trees of Knowledge and Life - see Schema FMC00.228 on Golden legend for explanation
- 5th seal: the reunion of Sun and Earth - see Schema FMC00.374 and variants on Reunion of Sun
- 6th seal: the purified human being in Michael and the dragon (to be done)
- 7th seal: the Mystery of the Holy Grail (see Schema FMC00.259 and explanations below on this page)
Schema FMC00.368 provides an overview of the seven apocalyptic seals. Left, from Eliphas Levi, in his Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie (1854-1856), right the version by Clara von Rettich inspired on Levi and sketches by Rudolf Steiner.
Schema FMC00.350 depicts the third of the seven apocalyptic seals, left a sketches provided by Rudolf Steiner, the two on the right are paintings by Clara Rettich of 1907 and 1911. It is probably the most well known seal when considering the Book of Revelation, showing the trumpets and the four horsemen.
Schema FMC00.259 depicts the seventh seal with short description, see also below. The letters around the seal refer to the Rosicrucian: Ex Deo Nascimur (EDN) • In Christo Morimur (ICM) • Per Spiritum Sanctum Reviviscimus (PSSR), see also EDN - ICM - PSSR.
Lecture coverage and references
The seals and their symbolic meaning
The seven pictures that decorate the hall are symbolic expressions for quite specific ancient truths. They represent the so-called seven seals of ancient, and ever new, wisdom. This is spoken of in the Apocalypse of John, and this Apocalypse is a kind of interpretation of an esoteric symbol language. Whoever studies the seals will recognise the images in the visions of the writer of the Apocalypse. Every letter, every colour of the seals means something. When we look at them together in the right way and sense the connection, quite specific feelings are released, which can engender an inner strength.
is also in GA284 and provides an overview
Illustration: see Schema FMC00.179 on The human heart as a future organ
The first seal is the man with the sword of fire in his mouth. This sword - and this feature is what matters - is connected with a secret of evolution. Speech has always been compared with the sword. It is however not merely a poetic picture. In esotericism everything is to be taken literally, we must only understand it correctly. There is a certain mysterious connection between that which lives in our speech - what is said in words through our larynx - and the lower human reproductive drives of today. The human form is in the process of transforming. Some can already see on the astral plane what will be present physically in the future. The seer sees in such a picture as this first of the seven seals a condition that the human being will someday attain. This is an astral picture today. It expresses the evolutionary condition of the human physical body in the future.
When we want to imagine this condition, we must think of it in such a way that we say that through their present-day lower power of repro-duction, human beings reproduce instinctively and unconsciously. Through the reproductive drive, they can bring forth forms filled with matter. There is another force in human beings, which does not yet enable us to bring forth forms that linger, that remain. That is the force of our speech. In that I speak here, I produce something. If you observe what happens in this room while I speak, you can follow oscillating waves of air. These are nothing other than words converted into movement. Such words translated into movement were, in the primordial past, that which expresses itself today in the life of reproduction. What is condensed today was, when it was still Spirit, word converted into movement. What human beings today can achieve out of the word, only in the form of movement, will later be a true power of reproduction.
Imagine that you could solidify my words for a moment so that the solidified waves of air would fall down: you would find a different form for every word. The word and would have a different form from the word god; a mussel form, as far as I am concerned. If I were to say "god," there would be a different form generated than if I were to say "and."
Spiritual science shows us that all the physical objects around us arose in this way. The spirit of the Logos rang through space, and matter formed itself; the rest is a process of solidification. What is present around us today is formed word, the condensed words of the gods. The forces in us are condensed divine forces. What was created earlier through the word is now converted into natural form.
In the course of evolution, the human larynx will become a reproductive organ. We will be able to produce not just movement; the larynx will become the true organ of reproduction. What our speech is today will be the producer of our own kind. The larynx is the future reproductive organ elevated spiritually - hence, the parallel in the development of sexuality and the development of the larynx within the human. The change of voice at sexual maturity points toward the creative power that will develop out of the voice of the human being one day. Out of speech will arise the true power of reproduction, the conscious bringing forth of the human being. As you know, in that we give those spirits that were our ancestors the name 'fire spirits', because they were connected with fire as we are connected with air, so we will once more develop ourselves from air spirits to fire spirits in our ascent. From the larynx will flow not only the air force but also the fire-spirit force.
What you see in the first seal expressed as the fiery sword is that which represents the being of the human that passes through all incarnations. This eternal element in the human being is at the same time the divine creating element. It is true that the element within us that goes through all the incarnations as wisdom is of the same nature as that which created the sevenfold planetary succession. That is the reason the man pictured in the first seal holds the symbols of the seven planets in his right hand.
The first seal presents a person clad in white, his feet of molten metal, and a fiery sword projecting from the mouth. His right hand is surrounded by the signs of our planets — Saturn, Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus. Those familiar with the Apocalypse of St. John will remember that there is to be found in it a description that closely corresponds to this picture, for St. John was an initiate.
.. this seal represents the idea of total humanity. When we go back in human evolution, we come to a time when men were at an imperfect stage. Thus, for example, they did not have heads like the ones you carry on your shoulders today. It would sound grotesque, indeed, were you to hear a description of the men of that time. Only gradually was the head developed, and it will continue developing. Men also have organs today that have come to the end of their development and in the future they will no longer form part of the human body. There are others that will transform themselves. An example is the larynx, which has a great future connection with the heart. At present the larynx is at the beginning of its development, but in times to come it will be transformed into a spiritualized organ of reproduction. You will get an idea of this mystery if you make clear to yourselves just what it is that a man achieves with his larynx today.
- While I speak to you, you hear my words. Through the fact that this sound fills the air and that certain vibrations are produced in it, my words are transported to your ears and to your souls. When I say a word, for example, “world,” the air vibrates in an embodiment of that word. What we produce in this way today is called “creation in the mineral kingdom.” The movements of the air are mineral movements, so to speak, and thus through the larynx we have a mineral effect on our environment.
- But men will progress and will also become effective in the plant kingdom. Then they will call forth not only mineral, but also plant-like vibrations. They will speak 'plants'.
- The next step will be that men will be able to speak 'feeling beings'.
- On the highest stage of their development, they will generate their like through the larynx. A man now can only express the contents of his soul through his larynx, but then Man will express himself. As men in the future will be able to call people into being through their speaking, so it was that the forerunners of mankind, the gods, were gifted with an organ with which they expressed all things that are around us today. It is they who have made all men, animals and everything else that is manifest. In the literal sense of the word, all of you are words uttered by divine beings.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and a God was the Word!” This does not mean a philosophical word in the speculative sense. St. John set down a primal fact that is to be taken quite literally.
At the end there will be the Word. Creation is a realization of the Word, and men in the future will bring forth a realizations of what today is the Word. Then men will no longer have the physical forms they have today; they will have progressed to the form that existed on Old Saturn, to fire matter.
That being who spoke forth all that is in the world today is the great prototype of Man. He spoke forth Old Saturn into the universe, Old Sun, Old Moon, Earth, Mercury, Future Jupiter and Future Venus. The seven planets in the seal point to this. They are the sign that indicates the height to which a man will be able to develop himself. His planet then will consist of fiery matter, and he will be able to speak creatively into this fiery matter.
The fiery sword that projects from the mouth of the figure in the seal represents this.
All will be fiery, hence the feet of flowing metal.
Note: a way to appreciate what is sketched here can already be seen in FMC00.298 on Earth rounds perspective, whereby the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds or Conditions of Life are forebodes of what is to be developed 'in full' during the future planetary stages.
Third seal - Man back to the spirit world
The third seal shows an open book with a semicircle of chalices and angels blowing trumpets above it, all encircled by flooding light and colors.
The trumpet-blowing angels express the harmony of the spheres. When we rise from the astral plane to the spirit world, we have the experience that the harmony of the spheres pervades the flooding light and color worlds of the astral plane. That which one can see within the astral plane as flowing light and color begins to sound, and it proves to be the expression of the essence of the spirit world.
The Pythagorean School called this harmony the "music of the spheres."
Goethe also speaks of it when he says, "The Sun intones in ancient tourney" and "Intoning, the new day is born for Spirit ears!" evolving upward to a higher level, which is indicated in the violet-blue winding, curved lines of the seal.
If we follow human evolution far, far back many millions of years, we are confronted by something quite different. The human being is a physical being on the Earth, but there was a time when the being that wandered on the Earth could not yet have taken up a human soul. This soul was on the astral plane. Still further back, we come to a time when it was on the spiritual plane. In the future it will again climb up to this high level, when it has purified itself on the Earth. From the spirit through the astral to the physical and upward again to the spirit: this is the long evolution of the human being. And yet it seems like a short period when we compare it with the time involved in the evolution of the human being on Old Saturn and on the other planets. There the human being went through not only a physical transformation but spiritual and astral transformations also.
If one wishes to follow these transformations, one must go up into the spiritual worlds. There one perceives the music of the spheres, tones that flow through space in this spiritual world. When human beings live into the spirit world again, the harmony of the spheres will sound toward them. In esotericism it is called the trumpet tones of the angels; hence, the trumpets in the third seal. Revelations coming out of the spiritual world are revealed only when the human being progresses ever further.
At that point the book with seven seals will be revealed to us. These seals are precisely those we are examining here. They will give up their secrets. For this reason, the book is placed in the middle of the seal, and below it are the four phases of humanity. The four horses are nothing other than the evolutionary stages of humanity through the ages.
For the signs on the right:
- the five and six pointed stars, see Schema FMC00.010A on Three dimensions of evolution,
- for the seven pointed star see Schema FMC00.068 on the Mystical Lamb
Seventh seal - Holy Grail
.. the image of the serpent denotes the devotional nature of knowledge. Only this selfless, devotional attitude can grasp the cosmic spiral in the Mercury staff, which then becomes fiery and winds out of pure knowledge.
It then transforms itself into the downward-turned pure chalice or cup. The plant "cup" is chaste today and is turned openly upward. With the human being it is reversed. In the future the human cup will become chaste and will turn itself downward; hence is the Grail shown here as a chalice turned downward.
The pure human being, the human being who has become guiltless, is portrayed in the dove. The rainbow points to the sevenfold creative human being.
For an illustration of the above quote, see Schema FMC00.270 on Christ Module 6 - Principle in image and story
[Space and counterspace]
- The occultist who has acquainted himself with our world knows that space in the physical world is not simple emptiness, but something quite different. Space is the source from which all beings have, so to speak, physically crystallized. Imagine a cube-shaped, transparent glass vessel filled with water. Now imagine that certain cooling streams are led through this water so that it congeals in the most manifold forms into ice. This will give you an idea of the world's creation, of space, and of the divine creative word spoken into it. The occultist presents this space into which the divine creative Word has been spoken as the water-clear cube. Within this space various beings develop. The ones standing nearest to us can be characterized as follows. The cube has three perpendicular directions, three axes, length, height and breadth. It thus represents the three dimensions in space.
- Now imagine the counter-dimensions to these three outside dimensions of the physical world. You may visualize this by imagining someone moving in one direction and colliding with someone else coming from another direction. Similarly, there is a counter-dimension to every dimension of space, so that in all we have six counter-rays.
These counter-rays represent the primal beginnings of the highest human members. The physical body, crystallized from out of space, is the lowest. The spiritual, the highest, is the opposite counter-dimension. In their development, these counter-dimensions first form themselves in a being that is best described when we let them flow together into the world of passions, sensual appetites and instincts. This it is at first. Later, it becomes something else. It becomes ever more purified .. but it issued from the lower impulses, which are here symbolized by the snake. The process of purification is symbolized by the counter-dimensions converging in two snakes standing opposite each other. As mankind purifies itself, it rises through what is called the world spiral. The purified body of the snake, this world spiral, has deep significance. The following example will give you an idea of it.
Modern astronomy is supported by two postulates of Copernicus, but a third has not been taken into account. Copernicus said that the sun also moves. It advances in a spiral so that the earth, following the sun, moves in a complicated curve. The same is true for the moon that revolves around the earth. These movements are far more complicated than is assumed in elementary astronomy. You see here how the spiral has significance for celestial bodies, and these describe a form with which men will one day identify themselves. At that time, a man's generative power will be cleansed and purified, and his larynx will become his generative organ.
What the human being will have developed as purified snake body will no longer work upwards, but from above downwards. The transformed larynx will become the chalice known as the Holy Grail. Even as one is purified, so also the other, which unites with this generative organ. It will be an essence of world force and of great cosmic essence. This world spirit in its essence is represented by the dove facing the Holy Grail. Here it symbolizes the spiritualized fructification that will be active out of the cosmos when men will have identified themselves with the cosmos. The complete creativity of this process is represented by the rainbow. This is the all-embracing seal of the Holy Grail. The whole gives the sense of the connection between world and men in a wonderful way, as a summation of the meaning of the other seals.
The world secret is found here as a circular inscription on the seal's outer edge.
- It shows how men in the beginning are born out of the primal forces of the world. Everyone, when he looks back, sees that he has gone through the process in the beginning of time that he goes through spiritually today when he is born anew out of the forces of consciousness. This is expressed in the Rose Cross by E. D. N., Ex Deo Nascimur, out of God I am born.
- We have seen that within the manifest world a second is added to life, that is, death. That he find life again in this death, a man must find the death of the senses in the primal source of all that lives. This is the center of all cosmic development because we have had to experience death in order to gain consciousness. We will be able to overcome death when we find its meaning in the mystery of the Redeemer. Just as we are born out of God, so, in the sense of esoteric wisdom, we die in Christ — I. C. M., In Christo Morimur.
- Because a duality is disclosed wherever something reveals itself, with which a third member must unite, the man who has overcome death will identify himself with the spirit that permeates the world, symbolized by the dove. He will rise from death and again live in the spirit — P. S. S. R., Per Spiritum Sanctum Reviviscimus.
See further also: EDN - ICM - PSSR
The Discussion area will be used to link each apocalyptic seal to the topic pages relevant for that seal.
1st seal: Man as a future creative God
- Schema FMC00.179 on The human heart as a future organ
- the characteristics in Schema FMC00.298 on Earth rounds perspective
References and further reading
- Adrian Anderson: 'The Seven Apocalyptic Seals' (2020)