Current fifth cultural age

From Anthroposophy

The current cultural age describes a period between 1413 and 3573 where the center of human cultural development lies with the German and Anglo cultures, it is the fifth cultural age in the Current Postatlantean epoch and a time characterized by the end of the dark age or kali yuga age around 1899. It is the cultural age where the consciousness soul develops and matures to be fructified by the Christ Impulse (see Schemas FMC00.438 and FMC00.468).


characteristics of the age

  • development of the consciousness soul, see Development of the I and Human character - the I and threefold soul
  • rise of a new clairvoyance, with start of the Abraham age after the end of the dark age or kali yuga age around 1899 (see also Schema FMC00.013), and the arising of new faculties, also called 'Christ in the etheric',
  • task to come to grips with evil as an impulse in world evolution (1917-11-19-GA178), see a.o.
    • rise of the the adverse powers of opposition: Ahrimanic (untruthfullness, materialism, Mammon .. ), Asuric (black magic, pornography, ..)
    • fall of the spirits of darkness after the battle with Michael in period 1840-1879
    • physical wars and conflicts, see topic page Wars
  • spiritual guidance of Mankind by angels (GA015), an intellectual age focused on thinking (1911-11-10-GA130) see Schema FMC00.047 on Current Postatlantean epoch)

future times

  • period around 2200-2600: Future Oriphiel age as a hefty cleansing period central in the fifth cultural age followed by a transition period
  • around 2500: "will be a critical moment in the development of civilisation, for then a point will be reached when human nature will have progressed so far that it will be thrown back into decay unless it has acquired the vision of repeated earth-lives and karma .. It will not enter completely until the middle of the third millennium; but little by little it will make its presence felt, and humanity must now consciously be alive to and prepare for its inevitable advent." (1918-06-25-GA181)
  • impulses at turn of millenia: "in the year 3000, one will again expect the end of the world, but the world will have become such that people will long for this end. One can say without sentimentality: European humankind is heading toward awful times" (1914-03-07-GA286)
  • transition from current fifth to next sixth cultural age:
  • schema overview: see Schema FMC00.534 and Schema FMC00.052: the grey block on FMC00.534 shows the transition phase after the old has ended and been destroyed, and before the new can emerge, see also Schema FMC00.449 on Future Oriphiel age.

various other

Inspirational quotes


But among human beings not everyone will without more ado prove equal to the new conditions then prevailing.

  • It will only be those in whom souls are incarnated who have duly benefited by the influences of the Graeco-Latin and the succeeding fifth, sixth and seventh post-Atlantean ages. Their inner lie will be in harmony with what the Earth will have become.
  • The others will perforce remain behind, while formerly they had been free to choose whether they were making themselves fit to go forward with the world's progressive evolution or were neglecting to do so.

For the conditions that will prevail after the coming cataclysm, those above all will be well fitted who, in their incarnations between the fifth post-Atlantean epoch and the sixth, succeed in integrating the supersensible wisdom and their own human powers of intelligence and feeling. The fifth and sixth are the decisive cultural ages.

In the seventh, the souls who have reached the evolutionary goal of the sixth will go on evolving. For those who have not, even the surrounding worlds will be too greatly altered; they will find little opportunity to recover their lost ground, and must await a more distant future when the conditions will again be favorable.


The middle of the third millennium will be a critical moment in the development of civilisation, for then a point will be reached when human nature will have progressed so far that it will be thrown back into decay unless it has acquired the vision of repeated earth-lives and karma, lost since the seventh or eighth century before Christ.


Naturally the change will be slow and gradual. But anyone who does not want to dream through the most important things of our age in a dull, sleepy way, but wishes to live in conscious wakefulness — it behooves him to mark what is seeking entry into human life. It will not enter completely until the middle of the third millennium; but little by little it will make its presence felt, and humanity must now consciously be alive to and prepare for its inevitable advent.


Schema FMC00.438 illustrates the essential agenda for humanity in the Current Postatlantean epoch to develop the first spiritual principle of Man's higher triad, the spirit-self (or manas) - see Schema FMC00.130. This will be achieved for a large part of humanity in the sixth cultural age (light yellow) as the fruits of the fructification of the consciousness soul by the Christ Impulse (see text in red, and the two mini infographics - see also Schema FMC00.428A).

This critical period of the fourth to the sixth cultural ages was prepared in the first four cultural ages (see Recapitulation - Schema FMC00.168), in parallel in a Southeastern and Northwestern stream (see Two streams of development). Both streams relate to the Atlantean migrations and the development of body and soul in the different populations (see also Human races). The Northwestern stream was in a preparatory waiting mode for four ages, see what is discussed on the topic pages available from both Germanic mythology and Mystery School tradition, a.o. but not limited to Ragnarok, Nibelungen, Druidic and Trotten Mysteries, Wotan Impulse, etc). The two streams met in the fourth cultural age, see Christ Impulse - meeting of two streams.

The spiral below (see also Schema FMC00.169) illustrates how evolution proceeds in discrete jumps, and the whole Schema is a concrete example of that in more detail. The central node of the spiral happens between the fourth to sixth cultural ages, of which the fifth is pivotal or central.

This positions the truly pivotal nature and importance of the current times, as the Christ Impulse is to fructify the consciousness soul so as to get the fruits required for this whole epoch in the next cultural age (Schema FMC00.169A). See also Schema FMC00.052: the next three millenia are crucial, and the current (and next) incarnation(s) is and are therefore pivotal.

Additional schemas that complement this schema: Schema FMC00.432, Schema FMC00.205B and Schema FMC00.441 below

Last, the Mystery of Golgatha in the center of the spiral is not just central to the current epoch, but to the whole Earth cycle and the evolution of the solar system cosmos: it is the start of a new creation, see Schema FMC00.400 on Cosmic breath of Brahma. For perspective, see also the PDF file The great journey of humanity.


Schema FMC00.428A adds the explanation from Rudolf Steiner's narrative in the sources listed, against the background of Schema FMC00.428.

It shows how "the Christ Impulse triggered a reversal of the influences of the two crossing streams", and gave Man independence in love and allowed for a spiritualization of love, as love without true freedom is not love.

Note: all texts originate from the GA244 sources listed, but were aggregated into a single schema explanation.


Schema FMC00.052 shows the dephased Christ solar impulse in red (dephased versus the cultural ages and timing of the regular hierarchies, called lunar/stellar astronomy). See Schema FMC00.052A for the original BBD (blackboard drawings). The timebar shows an interesting correlation between these impulses and two key periods for humanity: the first the next future Oriphiel age which will be a hardship test for humanity, and then the period in the next sixth cultural age where we have the Michael age and the impulse of the Maitreya Buddha .. a key period for the cohort of human beings that will provide the foundation for the next great Sixth epoch.

These two key periods are put in perspective to show - in yellow bars - the fact that "the fifth and sixth cultural ages are decisive" (1910-GA013), as "only a third of the population reaches the developmental goal at the end of the fifth epoch" (1904-10-24-GA090A).

To overlay schemas with a similar time-chart layout as below, see also:



Schema FMC00.534 is a schema intended to support study of the fourth and fifth cultural ages and gain insights of the patterns underlying evolutionary development of humanity, see also Schema FMC00.059 on History. As often, the schema is a digitized version of a paper scribble sketch. This schema has:

  • a) a lower section as a map to many key dates and phases described in Rudolf Steiner's lectures, with special focus on i) the period of the 4th century (see also 325) and the Transition between 4th and 14th century (including aspects such as Central European cultural basin but also 869, the Christ Impulse - meeting of two streams, Academy of Gondishapur, and more); and ii) the period 1840 and it's relation to the new start in the age of the consciousness soul (see 1840 and 1879)
  • b) an upper section showing the two halves of an evolutionary cycle - in this case a cultural age corresponding to an archai time spirit, and how certain centuries or periods represent crucial transitions on the timeline of the development of mankind. History and evolution does not progress linearly but with jumps or step changes represented by the spiral symbol. In this case that is linked to the activity of spiritual activities (above) and their emanation that can be observed (below).

Discussion Note [1] below provides a narrative to the schema with explanations and relevant lecture excerpts and references, to explain the point the schema conveys, and how it helps to understand the 'jump' in Schema FMC00.535.

For example, as illustration: the year 333 is described in 1918-10-16-GA182 as the time the intellectual soul was coming to its prime, up to then it was developing on the ascending arc, then began the arc of descent.

For purposes of personal study, the JPG can be saved and printed on A3 format for readability (as it is scaled down here on the site), so one can add personal annotations. Also one can truncate the JPG file and retain mainly the lower timeline section as very many other topic pages and lecture references connect to the years mentioned.


Schema FMC00.239 shows the archangelic rulers of approx 354 periods for the current cultural age (plus and minus a cultural age).

See also Spiritual hierarchies and their eigenperiods for more info on the 354 period. Rudolf Steiner uses this period to describe the nature of current Michael age and the Future Oriphiel age.


Lecture coverage and references



Thus you see that with the densification of man in the cosmos is connected a descent into the world of matter. And another force is connected with it which could never have developed without it: — egoism. Egoism has a good and a bad side. It is the foundation of human independence and freedom, but in its reverse aspect the foundation too of all that is bad and evil. But man had to go through this force of egoism if he was to learn to do good of his own freewill. Through the forces which had guided him previously, he would always have been impelled to the good; it had, however, to be possible for him to go his own way. Just as he has descended he must now ascend again to spirituality; and as the descent is linked with the predominance of egoism so does the ascent depend on men's selflessness, their feeling of sympathy for one another, becoming stronger and stronger.

Mankind has evolved through various epochs, first through the old Indian, then the Persian, the Egyptian-Chaldean-Babylonian, the Greco-Latin to the present Fifth epoch. And this will be replaced by a sixth. And as human evolution is working towards this, it is working at the same time at the overcoming of the principle which has been strongest since the time when the etheric body united with the point in the brain of which I spoke to you yesterday. That was the time of the fall into the deepest egoism.

Man was also egotistic in his earlier evolution, but it was then in a different way. The egoism which enters so deeply into the soul as in our present age is inseparable from the predominating materialism; a spiritual age will denote the overcoming of this egoism. Therefore Christianity and all movements imbued with genuine religious life have worked consciously towards breaking through all the old blood-ties.


The things and creatures of the Earth apart from man are also undergoing change — changes related to the evolution of mankind.

When the seventh epoch has run its course, another great convulsion will overwhelm the Earth, comparable to the catastrophe between the end of Atlantean and the beginning of post-Atlantean time.

Under the altered conditions following upon this event the life of man will once again evolve through a succession of seven ages. The souls who will then be incarnated will experience in an enhanced degree the community with spiritual worlds enjoyed by the Atlanteans on a lower level.

But among human beings not everyone will without more ado prove equal to the new conditions then prevailing.

  • It will only be those in whom souls are incarnated who have duly benefited by the influences of the Graeco-Latin and the succeeding fifth, sixth and seventh post-Atlantean ages. Their inner lie will be in harmony with what the Earth will have become.
  • The others will perforce remain behind, while formerly they had been free to choose whether they were making themselves fit to go forward with the world's progressive evolution or were neglecting to do so.

For the conditions that will prevail after the coming cataclysm, those above all will be well fitted who, in their incarnations between the fifth post-Atlantean epoch and the sixth, succeed in integrating the supersensible wisdom and their own human powers of intelligence and feeling. The fifth and sixth are the decisive cultural ages.

In the seventh, the souls who have reached the evolutionary goal of the sixth will go on evolving. For those who have not, even the surrounding worlds will be too greatly altered; they will find little opportunity to recover their lost ground, and must await a more distant future when the conditions will again be favorable.


from RSH

(Note of an esoteric lesson by K. Stockmeyer)

The significance of the turns of millennia. At this time, the ahrimanic and luciferic spirits have particular power. This is connected with the numerical system:

“The ahrimanic impulses work very strongly in the decimal system. It is evident that with every millennium – thus in the years 1000, 2000, and so on – an especially strong attack by Lucifer and Ahriman, working together, takes place.”


“Evolution proceeds like a swing of a pendulum: in the year 1000 A.D., one expected the end of the world; in 2000 one will expect exactly the opposite; and in the year 3000, one will again expect the end of the world, but the world will have become such that people will long for this end. One can say without sentimentality: European humankind is heading toward awful times.”

In pre-Christian time, the effect of the counter-powers was paralysed by the beneficent powers: 3000 B.C.: constructions of the pyramids, 2000 B.C.: Abraham’s age, 1000 B.C.: David’s age, year 1: Christ. There will be a persecution of Christians about 2000:

“There will be confusion and havoc when the year 2000 approaches. And at that time, there will not be one piece of wood of our Dornach building resting on the other. Everything will be destroyed and laid waste. We will look down upon this from the spiritual world. However, when the year 2086 arrives, one will see all over Europe buildings arise that are dedicated to spiritual goals and which will be reflections of our Dornach building with its two cupolas. That will be the golden age for such buildings in which the spiritual life will flourish.”

Note: Steiner said to some older English anthroposophists (in Stratford-on-Avon in 1922), they would reincarnate relatively soon “in German countries at a time when one will walk barefoot in Central Europe” [George Adams in lit. 18, p. 25]. 1918-01-08-GA180 (SWCC)

.. on the one hand that we are now living in the materialistic age, to which is added abstraction in the sense we have come to know it, namely estrangement from reality; furthermore, all that must break into our age catastrophically is connected with this divorce from reality.

On the other hand, however, it may also be said that compared with the other cultural ages in this epoch, our current fifth period is in a certain respect the greatest age, one that brings most of all to humanity, one that harbours within it immense possibilities for the evolution and existence of mankind.


In this fifth postatlantean age Man has the greatest possibility of making himself spiritual. No age has been so favourable to spirituality as this fifth cultural age.

Courage must only be found to drive the money-changers out of the Temple.

Courage must be found to confront with the real, abstractions and things estranged from reality, to set against them full reality and therewith the spiritual reality.


see also related: Central European cultural basin#1916-12-26-GA173B

Herewith we touch on conditions which are well-known in circles familiar with the realities of life, conditions which may be reckoned with and which may be used as forces if one wants to do certain things. These conditions are by no means unknown to the secret brotherhoods, neither in their rightful use, nor in that other direction which uses secret knowledge in one way or another in the service of some group egoism. For the secret of how the three consecutive layers — which are exceedingly meaningful, mainly for Europe — work together, is discussed most carefully in all secret brotherhoods worthy of the name, though naturally in some cases in a manner which deflects from what might be termed the good direction.

Please be sure not to forget that knowledge about such things exists, and that it is taught — even though, in the external, clever world no one wants to know much about it — very systematically and with great care, especially in the western and American secret brotherhoods.

Having now prepared the way and brought to your attention the teaching about what is, in a certain way, a mystery of evolution and which is taught, albeit with the most varying aims, I shall now point to some further teachings simply by describing them to you. These teachings formed the content of the instruction given in certain occult schools, particularly towards the end of the nineteenth century. They continued into the twentieth century, but it was particularly in the nineteenth century that they were taken up, at which time they gained a considerable degree of influence. Efforts were made to bring them into all kinds of situations in which it was felt necessary to use them for certain ends.

So to start with I shall simply report, quite uncritically, on certain teachings from the secret brotherhoods of England, whereby I shall be alluding to what I have prepared.

The following was taught and is still taught:

[1 - introduction]

  • The evolution of Europe can be comprehended if, to start with, one looks at the transition from the Roman, the fourth post-Atlantean cultural age, to the current fifth post-Atlantean age . The teaching was — please remember that I am merely reporting — that the mystery of the transition from the fourth to the fifth age or, as was said in these brotherhoods, from the fourth to the fifth sub-race, must be understood. You know that we cannot use the term ‘sub-race’ for the reasons I have frequently expressed, for to use this term means to pursue one-sided group aims, whereas group aims can never be our concern, but solely the general aims of mankind. So the teaching was that the fourth sub-race is represented mainly by the Roman, the Latin peoples. Throughout human evolution it is the case that when things develop in sequence it is not a question of what comes after taking its place behind what came before. What came before remains and takes its place side by side with what comes afterwards, so that they remain side by side in space. Thus, the stragglers of the fourth sub-race, consisting chiefly of the Roman and Latin elements, have remained during the period of the fifth sub-race.

[2 - fifth cultural age and 'rightful' expected dominance English speaking culture]

  • The fifth sub-race, which began at the start of the fifteenth century, is composed of those peoples who are called upon to speak English in the world. The English-speaking peoples represent the fifth sub-race, and the whole task of the fifth post-Atlantean cultural age consists in conquering the world for the English-speaking peoples. It will be evident that the stragglers of the fourth sub-race, the peoples touched by the Latin element, will fall more and more into a certain materialism. They bear within themselves the element of their own inner dissolution, and even in the physical sense bear their own decadence within them. As I said, I am merely reporting and not saying anything which I myself maintain to be true. Further, it is said that the fifth sub-race bears within it a germ of spirituality, of a capacity to comprehend the spiritual world.

[3 - learning from transition between fourth to fifth cultural ages]

  • It is necessary, it is said, to understand how the fourth sub-race affected the fifth, and for this purpose one must look back to where the Nordic peoples, who later became the Britons, the Gauls, the Germans, came towards the Roman Empire. The question was asked: What were these peoples at the time when the Roman Empire was making war on them; in other words, when the conflict between the fourth and the fifth sub-race began? As peoples they were at the stage of infancy! The important point is that the Romans, the Roman element, the fourth sub-race, came in order to be their wet-nurse. These expressions are needed to enable us to draw the analogy between the folk element and the element of the individual human being. So the Romans became wet-nurses and they remained so for approximately as long as they maintained their dominance over the peoples of the North who were going through their infancy.
  • Infants grow to be children. This is the age in which the Papacy is founded in Rome and in which the Pope in his reign becomes the guardian of the child, just as the Roman Empire was the wet-nurse of the infant. Again, I am merely reporting, and not maintaining that this is the case. So now we have the interplay between the Papacy and what is going on in the North, what developed through Central Europe right out as far as Britain. This is the education of these people under the guardianship of the Papacy, out of which the Roman element from the fourth post-Atlantean age is still working.
  • Round about the twelfth century, when the Papacy began to be no longer what it had been, the youth of these various people commenced, this being characterized by the awakening of their own intelligence. The guardian now withdraws. The youth of these peoples continues until roughly the end of the eighteenth century. As a rule, when such things are taught the present is omitted, because for certain reasons this is thought to be a good thing to do. People must not be told too clearly what one thinks about the present time; they learn about this more through suggestion.

[4 - recap and current situation 20th century]

Thus, in the course of time in the North, under the rule of the wet-nurse, the guardian, and so on, the present mature condition grew. This bears within it the germ of rendering Britain the ruling nation of the fifth post-Atlantean age, in the same way as were not only the Romans but also the Roman element in the form of the Papacy, which was derived from them. So, according to this doctrine, while the remains of the Latin element crumble away from the human race, a new fruitful element expands from the factor in which lives the British element.

Now it is hinted that all external actions and measures which are to serve any purpose and be fruitful, must be made under the sign of these views. Anything that is undertaken without these views, anything that does not take into account that the Latin element is in decline and the British element ascending, is doomed to wither. Of course such things may be undertaken, say these people, but they are condemned to remain meaningless, they will not grow. It is like sowing seeds in the wrong soil.

In the doctrine I have sketched for you we have a foundation which seeped into all the brotherhoods, even the more esoteric ones — those who worked in the West as so-called high grade Freemasons and suchlike.

These things were insinuated into public affairs by people who had either close or loose connections with these brotherhoods, often in such a veiled way that those concerned had no idea how they had come by their knowledge. Particularly since the sixteenth century these things have been carried from the West into much that can be experienced in human evolution.

[5 - looking ahead to sixth cultural age]

Other things are also taught. It is said:

  • Just as those people in the North during the time of the Roman element were preparing themselves to be the fifth sub-race, so today, in a similar way, the Slav people are coming towards the West as the developing sixth sub-race; in the same way the Germanic peoples came out of the North to meet the Roman element. Thus it is said that living in the East, under a despotic rule that is doomed to destruction, are a number of individual peoples who, like the Germanic peoples when the Roman Empire started to spread northwards, are not yet nations as such but still tribal peoples. These tribal peoples constitute the separate elements of the so-called Slav people, which for the moment is only held together in an external way by a despotic government which is to be swept away. I am using the terms which are customary within these secret brotherhoods.


After saying so many positive things about the Slavs, let me just add in parentheses: It is true that these peoples are still tribal in a certain way. This became evident at the Slav Congress in Prague in 1848. Each group wanted to speak in their own language, but this proved impossible because they were then incomprehensible to the others; so they were forced to use standard German instead. I do not say this to amuse you but in order to show that what is taught in the West about the Slavs does have a certain basis of truth.

[continued on slavic people]

It is said further in the English brotherhoods that

  • the Poles have evolved ahead of the other Slavs, for they have developed a homogeneous cultural and religious life of a relatively high calibre. The destinies of the Poles are described to some extent, but it is then maintained that they really belong to the Russian Empire.
  • Then the Balkan Slavs are discussed. Of them it is said that they have thrown off the yoke of Turkish oppression and formed themselves into individual Slav states which, however — and this is repeated over and over again — are destined to remain as they are only until the next great European war. In the nineties particularly, these brotherhoods held this great European war to be imminent, and it was linked especially to evolutionary impulses which were to emanate from the Balkan Slavs, born of the fact that these states, which had come into being as a result of their disengagement from the Turkish Empire, had to undergo a transition to new forms. Only until the next great European war, it was said, would these Balkan Slavs be able to maintain their independence. After that they would meet with quite other destinies.

[6 - coming full circle]

These peoples are at present, so it is taught, in their infancy. So it is hinted that since they are the future sixth sub-race, while the Britons are the present fifth sub-race, the Britons will have to play a role towards them similar to that played by the Romans towards the northern Germanic peoples, namely that of wet-nurse; to be a wet-nurse to these peoples is their primary task.

This role of wet-nurse will cease to be necessary, it is said, at the moment when these peoples will have reached a point when the Russian Empire no longer exists and they have succeeded in creating their own forms out of their own dawning intelligence. But gradually the wet-nurse must be replaced by the guardian. This means that in the West a kind of papacy must develop out of those who form the fifth sub-race. For this, a strong spirituality must develop and, just as the Papacy stood in relation to Central Europe, so a configuration will have to come about which works comprehensively from the West over towards the East. This must result in the East being used as a place where certain institutions can be created in a manner similar to that in which the Papacy created its institutions in Europe.

Of course we have now progressed by one sub-race. The Papacy created churches and religious communities of all sorts. But now the western ‘papacy’, which is to develop out of the British element, will have the task of carrying out certain quite definite economic experiments, that is, of instituting a certain form of economic society of a socialist nature which, it is assumed, cannot be founded in the West because there the fifth and not the sixth sub-race has its being. The East, experimentally at first, must be used for such experiments for the future. Political, cultural and economic experiments must be carried out.

[editor: see Russian revolution and communism, Lenin Stalin Khrushchev]

Of course these people are not so stupid as to maintain that the dominance of the West will last forever, for no serious student of spiritual matters would believe that. But they are quite clear about the fact that just as at first the services of the wet-nurse were offered, so must these be metamorphosed into the role of the guardian — in other words a kind of future ‘papacy’ on the part of western culture.

I have been reporting, my dear friends! These things are buried deeply in the teachings of western Freemasonry and it is a matter of recognizing whether the ones I have mentioned, which are very influential, are really justified as being for the good of mankind in general in its evolution, or whether it is necessary to think of them as needing correction in some way.

This is what we are concerned with. We shall return to all this again.



I have mentioned in the course of these studies that every cultural age in the Postatlantean age has its particular task. I have characterized in general the task of the fifth cultural age, indicating that it is humanity's task in this period to come to grips with evil as an impulse in the evolution of the world.

We have frequently discussed what this means. It cannot be otherwise than that forces that appear at the wrong place appear as evil. They can be conquered for humanity, however, through the exertions of human beings in the current fifth cultural age, so that with these forces of evil something good for the future of the evolution of the whole world is in the position to unfold.

For this reason, the task for the fifth Postatlantean age is a particularly difficult one. As you see, a great many temptations face humanity. When the powers of evil gradually appear, it is natural that Man is more likely under the circumstances to give in to this evil in all realms, rather than taking up the struggle to allow what appears to him as evil to be put in the service of the good in world evolution.

Yet this must happen: the evil must to a certain degree be placed at the service of the good in world evolution. Without this, it would be impossible to enter the sixth cultural age, which will have a completely different task. It will have the task of allowing humanity to live above all in a continuous contemplation of the spiritual world, of spiritual impulses, in spite of the fact that it is still connected with the earth.

Just this task in the fifth cultural age, that of opposing evil, is connected with the new possibility of a certain kind of personal darkening for humanity.


The middle of the third millennium will be a critical moment in the development of civilisation, for then a point will be reached when human nature will have progressed so far that it will be thrown back into decay unless it has acquired the vision of repeated earth-lives and karma, lost since the seventh or eighth century before Christ. In earlier times, human nature had a healthy power of response; knowledge came naturally to it. In future it will become diseased unless it takes this teaching into itself.

We understand our age only if we keep in mind that it lies between two poles.

  • One pole lies far back, beyond the seventh or eighth century before the Mystery of Golgotha. Those were the times when knowledge of the soul’s super-sensible experience was given by human nature itself.
  • The other pole will be in the third millennium, when (as described in “Knowledge of Higher Worlds”) Man must acquire super-sensible knowledge in spiritual ways, so that health, and not sickness, may stream into the body.

Our age can be understood in both its inner and its outer aspects only if we keep this in mind.

Naturally the change will be slow and gradual. But anyone who does not want to dream through the most important things of our age in a dull, sleepy way, but wishes to live in conscious wakefulness — it behooves him to mark what is seeking entry into human life. It will not enter completely until the middle of the third millennium; but little by little it will make its presence felt, and humanity must now consciously be alive to and prepare for its inevitable advent.


Men must learn to see through words; they will have to acquire the capacity to grasp the gesture in language. Before this cultural age, before this fourth millennium has run its course, men will have learnt to listen to one another differently from the way they do at the present moment; they will find in language an external expression of Man's relation to the third Hierarchy, to the angels, archangels and archai, a means whereby he can attain to the super-sensible, to the spirit.


Now I have said that a wave of confusion is passing over the world.

Why is this so? Recollect that our present-day 5th post-Atlantean epoch, the age of the consciousness-soul, began in 1413.

Since that time mankind is before all else striving to develop the consciousness-soul. If one speaks in this way about this epoch of ours, one is speaking as a man who stands within the development of the earth. For something is manifesting itself in the physical development of the earth which, expressed in words, runs just like this: since the middle of the 15th century mankind has been in the age of the development of the consciousness-soul.

But now we could put the question from another point of view as well, one which we must again and again adopt when dealing with spiritual science. We could also put it from the point of view of the discarnate souls who are living between death and a new birth. It is of great importance for many things which must be spoken of by anthroposophical spiritual science always to consider, in addition to our own point of view, that the discarnate souls of men and even that of the other spirits of the various spiritual hierarchies. It is only by this means that we can rightly check whether we are bringing to expression the judgments which we make as earthy men — which must, of course, always be one-sided — in the right spiritual-scientific way. Anyone who now surveys this period of the 5th post-Atlantean cultural age by means of spiritual-scientific investigation finds that, from a quite definite point of time, the life of the living, who are taking their stand to an ever greater extent on the basis of consciousness, the summit of the personality.

At first we can only consider in how far this life of the dead changes in intercourse with human beings living on the Earth. With regard to the relationship of the living towards the dead it is, to be sure, so extraordinarily difficult to bring anything into human consciousness because what we experience there is certainly remarkably different from what can be experienced here within the physical circumference of the earth. Human beings are accustomed to form their ideas within the physical circumference of the earth must be corrected in the light of our experience with discarnate souls. In these, we experience in an extraordinarily living way the relationship of the dead to human speech.

At first, however, it is difficult to understand how the fact works which I have indicated here in those recent lectures in which I said to you that nouns are hardly understood by the dead. (The Social Question as a Question of Soul: The Inner Experience of Speech. 28-30 Mar. 1919. Dornach.) I have described to you how the other parts of speech are understood by the dead, but there are also, nevertheless, distinctions within these. It is clearly perceptible that human speech, as it is spoken here on the earth, is becoming less and less intelligible to the dead. Certainly the dead understand verbs: they also understand prepositions. They understand everything in which we are compelled to develop pictorial representations. But, generally, the ability to comprehend what can be grasped in speech, the understanding of it, is becoming ever more lost to them.

Before all else, something stands out with quite special clearness — of course, only for certain men: that, the dead understand nothing at all of what we call “Natural Science”, what is carried on as Natural Science here on earth. If we talk to the dead about all other imaginable things, we find understanding. But if we dress up what is supposed to be suitable for the dead in a natural-scientific form of presentation, the dead person merely experiences it as pain. This is of extraordinary significance and confirms what can be learned from other spiritual sources, that everything which is done here with regard to knowledge of nature is really only produced by means of the physical human organism. And as soon as a human being leaves this physical organism after death, everything which he had developed in the physical organism about nature as Natural Science is no longer of any value to him. It has no importance for him. He no longer accounts it: it no longer exists.

One can acquire very clear ideas about these things. Take a purely natural-scientifically written book by a real natural-scientist, let us say about botany. Read a chapter, and try to impart to the dead what is written purely in the sense of the Natural Science of today: it gives him a pain. He does not know at all whence this pain comes. He has absolutely nothing in common with it: he cannot receive it. But in the moment when you recall to yourself how you once saw a dandelion — of which, perhaps, the investigator of nature is speaking — and you set the yellow colour of the dandelion before you in a living way, and its peculiar, indented leaves, in the moment when you really inwardly feel what your eye sees, then the dead begins to understand it. But you must, of course, feel it, for the visual image does not exist for the dead.

This is very remarkable. The dead person can share with earthly human beings their pleasure about a green meadow. He cannot share the ideas of Natural Science about a green meadow. It is true that the natural-scientists of the present-day say that they can form no idea at all about what is living. But then, at some time in the future, some especially perfect Natural Science must find out, from all possible combinations of atoms, how living matter is put together. But if you grasp ideas about what is living, for example Goethe does in his Theory of Metamorphosis, and make this kind of idea living in yourself, then, once again, the dead person understands it. These, again, are ideas which the dead understand.

For a quite definite, spiritual historical fact lies at the basis of all that I am explaining to you here. The development which I have just characterised really only began to appear about the year 1721. If you go back to the time before 1720 and immerse yourself in the writings about nature which were produced then — most people do not notice such things, but it is, nevertheless, the case — you will see that people then speak in a much more living way about nature. The way in which in one speaks about nature today — I may now say, unintelligibly to the dead — really only began in the early part of the 16th century. Only then did this wave break in on mankind. Previously, men found themselves under the necessity of writing about nature in a much more living way, so that the dead with the living took place. Only since then have scientific ideas been such that they are ideas for earthly men alone and only for so long as these are in the physical body, no longer forming any bond upward into the spiritual world.

This is an extraordinarily significant fact in the history of spiritual development. For now, certainly, you can easily imagine how we are entering on a process in which the discarnate will be out adrift from the earth as a result of the Science which is the one and only thing which men are prepared to accept as valid, as a result of what appears to them as the most valuable thing of all. Just imagine this with great vividness! For it is of no avail to shut one's eyes — I mean one's spiritual eyes — to such things. Imagine that, at universities over the whole earth, everything is being gradually effaced which is not admitted by so-called exact Natural Science. The universities are thus islands on the earth where everything which is not exact science is being effaced in the completest possible way. But as a result these universities become places from which the spirit — that is to say, everything essential which exists in the Spiritual — flees. They are islands in the culture of mankind where unspirituality, the unspirtual life, is to the greatest extent taking its origin. Looked at from another point of view, surely, the universities are simply our spiritual centres. But think how we earth-men really talk. Since the 18th century we designate as our spiritual centres the very places where the Spirit receives its dismissal, where the Spirit is least of all to be found! Today is no longer the time to close our eyes to these things; we must contemplate them much more — I should like say — coldly, in conformity with true reality. If we look away from things like this, we are shutting our eyes to what must be understood if we are to look into the heart of the true reality of the time.

This development which began in the 18th century has reached its culmination in our time. Now it is necessary to return to the other spiritual wave, as a result of which a real spiritual life can develop in mankind.

There is only one type of spirit which has a special inclination, as it were, to saturate themselves in what is thus unspiritual on our Earth. These are the Ahrimanic spirits. The ordinary, discarnate souls of men in the life between death and a new birth feel this nature-knowledge — I should like to say — negatively, so that they feel it as a pain: they thus have a sort of negative experience. The Luciferic spirits have a terrible fury at it; they just hate it. Only the Ahrimanic spirits have an inclination for it and seek to reach their aim just through nature-knowledge, so that this forms a bond of attraction for the Ahrimanic spirits.

Now Ahriman is just the Spirit of Illusion, of Deceit. And I pointed out to you at the time when I explained this that since the beginning of the 18th century the Ahrimanic influences have become ever greater and greater. But as a result this wave of confusion has come upon humanity, which has seized on human beings like a whirlpool and which displays itself in the colossal superficiality of which I gave you an example at the opening of today's lecture.

We must know this kind of thing because it is just anthroposophically-oriented spiritual science which puts us into the position to protect ourselves against this confusion. One way to take care of ourselves against it is to be critical, attentive towards what can approach us from every direction in order to throw us into confusion, as happened in the case which I quoted, without being noticed by the greater number of people.

Yet another thing must be observed: we cannot, so to say, get away from a universal world-phenomenon which is with us as things now stand.

This wave of chaos is quite clearly with us today. It is of no help whatever to shut our souls' eyes against it. Only one thing is of assistance — to draw our attention to it! And we become attentive if we first of all always say to ourselves regarding what refers to the spiritual worlds the chaos is there, it will keep us from the right knowledge of the spiritual world! If we always have a sort of suspicion, when people speak to us about the Spiritual World, that what they say might be erroneous, if we accustom ourselves to observe the utmost caution, we shall certainly by no means fall into the wave of chaos which holds sway at the present time. We must find courage to pass through this chaos and to raise ourselves above it, while we partake very, very much in real, sound common-sense. This sound common-sense will only be ours if we are primarily on our guard against a mistake which is so common in the present time: at the present time, when men have attained a certain age, they really wish only to admit the validity of what is already familiar to them.

It is a very nearly universal phenomenon that men who have attained a certain age can hardly be convinced of anything new.

If they meet with an opinion, they only ask themselves whether they have already thought of it and if this is the case they are in agreement with it, but if they have not yet thought of it then it is false or abstract to them. In short, this is then a reason why they have nothing to do with the matter. But, in contrast to this, present-day men have the serious task — I will not say always to let themselves be convinced of new things, but at least to let themselves come in contact with new things without presupposition or prejudice, to participate in the new things which are entering the world.

It could appear as though this were a trivial remark. It is not so, because what I have described is sinned against to such an extraordinary extent at the present time. Much would improve if more power of conviction could develop in the intercourse of human beings with one another, if human beings were not so antipathetic towards one another, not so pigheadedly fixed in their own opinions which they received during a certain period of their lives

What is the reason for this?

At the same point of time when natural-scientifically oriented ideas made their appearances, a quite definite process begins in the development of mankind, which is based on the following.

As you know, Man has a physical body, which is embedded in an etheric body; we need not consider the rest today. The intimacy of the connection between these — I am not now referring to the fact that they occupy the same space but to what is dynamic in the connection — changes in the course of earth-evolution.

  • The intimate relationship between the etheric head and the human physical head which, for example, existed in the centuries of Greek culture no longer have existed since the 3rd century B.C. Since this time, the old, intimate relationship between man's etheric head and his physical head has been lost.
  • On the other hand, a really intimate relationship has until now remained in being between the human physical heart and the etheric heart. Since the year 1721, this relationship has been loosening to an ever-increasing degree. If the physical heart is here (see diagram) and the etheric here, then in earlier times the etheric heart and the physical heart were more a single entity. Now the etheric heart can be excited to activity in an etheric way: the two are no longer so inwardly, dynamically bound together as they were before.
  • Later, still other human organs will loosen themselves from the etheric.

[Effects of loosening of etheric and physical heart]

But, with regard to human development as well, something very important results from the fact that the heart is gradually separating itself from its etheric part, and will have completely separated itself in the third millenium, about the year 2100.

We can describe the characteristics of this by saying since the recent past, humanity must seek in the path of spiritual life something which in former times came about of its own accord as a result of the natural relationship between the physical heart and the etheric heart. This etheric heart, separated from the physical heart, will only gain its correct relationship to the spiritual world if man seeks spiritual knowledge, if man seeks anthroposophically-oriented spiritual thoughts. These must be sought to an ever greater extent.

Now something most remarkable is present in our time. How often is it said when reference is made to anthroposophical spiritual science: yes, but this has a systematic interconnection, this is complicated, one must do a lot of thinking about it!

[Dangers with faith]

Christianity, they say, makes all this much simpler: it has Faith! But this faith, which does not want to soar up to real thoughts about the Spiritual World, is extraordinarily dangerous just since the time of the separation of the etheric heart from the physical heart.

For this faith, which does not want to gain a real understanding of the spiritual world, which really only wants to develop a simple relationship-in-feeling towards the spiritual world, is materializing the heart of mankind, is a means by which culture is being led into materialism in a sphere where one would not think that this would occur. It is just the religious people who are so dreadfully materialistic in our time, because the lean on mere faith. Faith must be soaked through and spiritually permeated by real ideas about the spiritual world, and it is an Ahrimanic trick to impress this on people in the age of confusion — that they are not by any means to come to a real vision of the spiritual world, but are to remain stationary in mere faith.

Something also indicated by this, which is of untold importance in our time. What I have said today at the beginning and what I am now saying at the end of today's explanation are interlocked.

Only look in an unprejudiced way at the dreadful absence of thinking, at the boundless superficiality out of which our sad circumstances have developed: look deeply into what can be stated spiritual-scientifically — the separation of the etheric heart from the physical heart, and from these explanations derive impulses towards that seriousness which, in our time, in so necessary for further development.

The men are becoming ever more and more numerous who, as a result of superficial confusion, really no longer know what they are talking about. In the case of a man like David it is quite clear he does not know what he is talking about, for he is talking about something which does not exist at all, and that because he no longer knows how to read. And on the other side the men are becoming ever more numerous who want to fish in troubled waters, who are exploiting the confusion in men's hearts and minds in order to drop into these all sorts of things which further their aims — for one can implant all sorts of impulses into confused spirits. Among the spirits which still have a relationship with the confusion on earth are the spirits of deceit, the Ahrimanic spirits. And one can implant into human beings the opposite of what is reasonable and healthy if one takes account of the confusion existing in them.


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References and further reading