Occult Signs & Symbols
IV. Man, the Most Significant Symbol
September 15, 1907, Stuttgart
The Seven Seals
The most significant of the symbols and signs that we have, and that has been acknowledged by occultists of all times, is man himself. The human being has always been called a microcosmos, a small world, and rightly so. Those who have learned to know him exactly and intimately have realized that everything spread out in the rest of nature is contained in miniature in man. This may at first be difficult to understand, perhaps, but when you think about it, you will grasp its meaning. In man there is to be found a kind of extract of all the rest of nature, of all materials and forces. If you study the nature of any plant deeply enough, you will find that there is contained in the human organism something of the same, even though it is there in ever so small a measure. If you study an animal, you will always be able to point to something in it that is of like nature in the human organism. In order to understand this rightly it is, of course, necessary to consider the development of the world from the occult standpoint. The occultist knows, for example, that men would not have the kind of hearts they have today if the lion did not exist out there in nature. Let us look back to an earlier time when there were still no lions.
Men, the oldest beings, already existed but at that time they had a differently constituted heart. To be sure, everywhere in nature there are obscure relationships. When, in the far remote past, the human heart acquired its present form, the lion appeared. The same forces formed both. It is as if these forces had extracted the leonine essence and with divine artistic skill fashioned the heart from it. You may feel that the human heart has nothing leonine in it; that it does is nevertheless so for the occultist. You must not forget the fact that when something is introduced into the relationships of an organism, it will then function quite differently from the way it functions when it is free. Conversely, it can be said that were you able to withdraw the essence of the heart and form a being from it that corresponds to this heart — that is, a being formed in such a way that the forces of the organism did not determine its structure — you would then produce a lion. All the traits of courage and daring, or, as the occultist says, the kingly traits of the human being, are derived from connections with the lion. The initiate, Plato, also placed the kingly soul in the heart.
Paracelsus used a beautiful comparison to demonstrate this connection of the human being with nature. He said that the individual beings in nature are letters, and men are the words that are composed from them. Outside, the great world, the macrocosmos; in us, the small world, the microcosmos. Outside, everything exists separately. In men it is determined by the harmonious relation with other organs. Just this enables us to illustrate through human beings the development of the whole universe insofar as it belongs to us.
You have in the seven seals that were hung in the Festival Hall during the Munich Congress a picture of this evolution of men in connection with the world to which they belong. Let us see what they show us.
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. It can be said that this seal represents the idea of total humanity. This will be understood when we recall some ideas already known to the older members here. 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, to be sure, 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 he 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 Saturn, to fire matter.
That being who spoke forth all that is in the world today is the great prototype of men. He spoke forth Saturn into the universe, the Sun, Moon, Earth, Mercury, Jupiter and 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.
When you compare a man of today with the animals, the difference between them forces one to say that the man, as an individual, has within him what cannot be found in the single animal. The man has an individual soul, the animal a group soul. The individual human being is, in himself, a whole animal species. All lions together, for example, have only one soul. Such group-egos are like human egos except that they have not descended into the physical world, but are to be found only in the astral world. Here on earth one sees physical men, each of whom bears his ego. In the astral world one finds beings like one's self, but in astral sheaths rather than physical. One can speak with them as to one's peers. These are the animal group souls.
In earlier times, men also had group souls. Only gradually have they developed themselves to their present independence. These group souls were originally in the astral world and then descended to live in the physical body. When one investigates the original human group souls in the astral world, one finds four species from which humans have sprung. Were one to compare these four kinds of beings with the group souls that belong to the present-day animal species, one would find that one of the four is comparable to the lion, another to the eagle, a third to the cow, and a fourth to the man of ancient times before his ego had descended. Thus, in the second picture, in the apocalyptic animals, lion, eagle, cow and man, we are shown an evolutionary stage of mankind. There is, and always will be as long as the earth shall exist, a group soul for the higher manifestation of men, which is represented by the lamb in the center of the seal, the mystical lamb, the sign of the Redeemer. This grouping of the five group souls, the four of man around the great group soul, which still belongs to all men in common, is represented by the second seal.
Were we to go far back millions of years in human evolution, another picture would come toward us. At present, men are physically on earth, but there was a time when what wandered about here on earth was not yet able to take up a human soul because it was on the astral plane. Even further back in time, we come to a period when the soul was on the spiritual plane, in devachan. In the future, when it will have purified itself on earth, the soul will again ascend to this high plane. Its course moves from the spiritual, through the astral, the physical and then again up to the spirit. This seems a long development for the human being, yet it still appears brief compared to the other planets. During those times men went through not only physical transformations, but spiritual and astral transformations as well. To follow these requires that we rise to spiritual worlds. There the music of the spheres can be heard, tones that swell and flood through space in this world, the harmony of the spheres, called by the occultist “the trumpet tones of the angels,” will sound forth for them. Hence, the trumpets in the third seal.
From the spiritual world there come the revelations that disclose themselves to men only when they continue to progress; then there will be opened for them the Book with the Seven Seals. These seals are just what we are considering here, and they will be revealed. Hence, you find the book in the middle of the seal and below it the four stages of mankind represented by four horses, which signify mankind's stages in its development down through time. But there is still higher initiation. Men derive from still higher worlds and they will ascend to them again. Then men and world will have ceased to exist in their present forms. What is now outside in the world — the single letters of which a man is composed — he will again have taken into himself, and his form will become identical with the world's form. In a rather trivial theosophical teaching, one says that one searches for God within one's self. But those who would find God must look for him in his works that are spread out in the world. Nothing in the world is just matter, this is but seeming. In reality, all matter is an expression of spirituality, a message of the activity of God. Men will extend their beings, as it were, in the course of times to come, identifying themselves more and more with the world; thus it will become possible to represent them in the form of the cosmos instead of the human form. This you can see in the fourth seal with its rock, sea and columns. What passes as clouds through the world today will offer its matter so that the body of a man may be formed from it, and the forces that today are with the Sun spirits will in future provide men with what will develop their spiritual forces in a much higher way. It is this sun force to which men are striving. Contrary to the plant that sends its head-like roots towards the earth's center, a man turns his head to the sun. He will ultimately unite his head with the sun and receive higher forces. This is to be seen in the fourth seal in the sun's face that rests on the body of clouds, on the rock and columns. In that future time, the human being will have become self-creative. As symbol of the perfect creation, the many coloured rainbow surrounds him. In the Apocalypse of St. John you can find a similar seal in which there is a book in the middle of the clouds. St. John says that the initiate must swallow this book. Here is indicated the time when men will receive wisdom not only outwardly, but will be penetrated by it as is the case today with food, when they, themselves, will be an embodiment of wisdom.
The time will then draw near in which great changes will take place in the cosmos. When men will have attracted the sun power, the sun will once again be united with the earth. Men will become sun beings, and through the power of the sun, they will be able to bring forth suns. Hence, the woman that bears the sun in the fifth seal. Mankind will be so far along morally and ethically that all destructive forces resting in his lower human nature will have been overcome. This is represented by the animal with the seven heads and the ten horns. At the feet of the sun woman is the moon, which contains all those base substances that the earth could not use but had not tossed out. Everything in the way of magical forces that the moon still exerts on the earth at present will then be overcome. When man becomes united with the sun, he will have overcome the moon.
The next picture shows us that the human being, when he had achieved the highest spirituality, takes on the form of Michael fettering the evil in the world, symbolized by the dragon.
In a certain way we have seen that both at the beginning and at the end of human evolution there are the same conditions and transformations. We have seen them portrayed in the man with the feet of molten fire and the sword projecting from his mouth. In a symbolism of great profundity, the world's whole being is now revealed to us in the symbol of the Holy Grail.
Let me set this seal before your eyes in a few words. 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 — we have seen to what height — 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, which 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.
Here stands the theosophical Rose Cross. It rays forth to those times in which religion and science will be reconciled.
You can see how the whole world presents itself in such seals, and because the magi and initiates have put the whole cosmos into them, they contain a mighty force. You can continually turn back to these seals and you will find that by meditating on them they will disclose infinite wisdom. They can have a mighty influence on the soul because they have been created out of cosmic secrets. Hang them in a room where such things are discussed as we have been doing here, discussions in which one raises one's self to the holy mysteries of the world, and they will prove enlivening and illuminating in the highest degree, although people will often not be aware of their effect. Because they have this significance, however, they are not to be misused or profaned. Strange as it may seem, when the seals are hung around a room in which nothing spiritual is ever said, in which only trivial words are spoken, their effect is such that they cause physical illness. Trivial as it may sound, they destroy the digestion. What is born out of the spiritual belongs to the spiritual and must not be profaned. This is shown here by the very effect. Signs of spiritual things belong where spiritual things are enacted and reach effectiveness.