Four times twelve human beings

In the poignant last address given by Rudolf Steiner, on September 28th 1924 (Michaelmas Eve), before he retired to the sick bed in his studio where he was to die six months later, he used a mysterious phrase which has often puzzled me:

“If, in the near future, in four times twelve human beings, the Michael Thought becomes fully alive — four times twelve human beings, that is, who are recognised not by themselves but by the Leadership of the Goetheanum in Dornach — if in four times twelve such human beings, leaders arise having the mood of soul that belongs to the Michael festival, then we can look up to the light that through the Michael stream and the Michael activity will be shed abroad in the future among mankind.”

Steiner was speaking here in the context of his message that sincere anthroposophists have the strange destiny “that they are not able to come to terms with the world: they cannot quite master it, and yet at the same time they have to approach the world and enter into it with full earnestness”; that their “karma will be to harder to experience than it is for other men” but that nevertheless, they “are to prepare the work that shall be accomplished at the end of the century, and that shall lead mankind past the great crisis in which it is involved.”

This also relates to Steiner’s message to anthroposophists given during the 3rd August 1924 lecture on the Entry of the Michael Forces:

“I have indicated how those individuals who are fully engaged in the anthroposophical movement will return at the end of the century, and that others will join them, because it will be decided at that time whether earth civilisation will be redeemed, or lost.”

So Steiner was telling his audience that they would be reincarnating much more quickly than usual and that when they did so they would be joining forces with others to counteract the crisis caused by the manifestations of ahrimanically-inspired materialism. But what did Steiner mean by the phrase “four times twelve human beings”? Does it imply that forty-eight special people would be needed? Or is it some kind of reference that can only be understood by those steeped in mystical numerology? As I say, I have puzzled over what this could possibly mean and now humbly offer a suggestion for others to consider.

The Four-fold Human Being

Steiner gives us a picture of the human being as consisting of four ‘bodies’ – a physical body, an etheric body, an astral body, and the ‘I’ or ego. Each of us knows that we have a physical body but the other three bodies may be unfamiliar concepts for some people. The etheric body is essentially an energy body that contains and forms the physical. It is this etheric body which maintains the physical body’s form until death. The astral body (Soul) provides us with awareness and self-awareness, our emotions and our feelings and intentions. The ‘I’, ego or Self is like our higher soul, the immortal and inalienable core of each individual human being, which goes with us from one incarnation to the next. There are another three bodies in potential – the spirit self, the life spirit and spirit man – which are to come to full development in later stages of human evolution. But at our present stage, we are four-fold beings functioning through our threefold constitution of body, soul and spirit, with the ‘I’ as a higher part of the soul component. (Yes, I too find this horribly confusing!)

The Twelve Senses

Most of us recognise that humans have five senses (touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste), while others say that we have a sixth sense or intuitive faculty which can, for instance, come to our aid at times of danger.

Steiner, however, observed that the human organism is divided into three systems: nerve-sense, rhythmic and metabolic and that these groupings took in not five or six but twelve senses. These twelve senses are organised as follows:

  • the physical body: the senses of touch, of life, of movement, of balance
  • the external world: smell, taste, sight, temperature
  • the immaterial, spiritual world: hearing, speech, thought, ego

It is important for us to develop and use as many of our senses as possible because each sense reveals another aspect of our sensory reality. Sensory perception also forms the basis of our relationship to our self, our surroundings, and the people we meet. In order to observe well, we have to use our senses frequently and to the full. If we are able to do this, our health and vitality will benefit, which in turn enables us to make better observations. In other words, we will become fuller human beings.

It occurred to me that, by “four times twelve human beings”, Steiner may have simply meant that people can become whole, fully realised human beings through anthroposophy – four-fold human beings consciously in touch with their twelve senses. If anyone knows a different explanation, I’d be pleased to hear about it in the comments below this post.

I’m glad that Steiner, in the quotation above from his lecture of 3rd August 1924, also used the phrase: “…and that others will join them”, meaning that it won’t be anthroposophists on their own who will make the difference but that anthroposophists will become part of a much larger, looser and informal coalition of people of goodwill who can see what is really going on and who in their myriad different ways will peacefully resist the onslaught and hold on to true human values.

It is surely possible that, despite the many failures of the Anthroposophical Society since Steiner’s death in 1925, students of the Michaelic school whether they are in the Society or, more likely, outside of it, are today quietly getting on with their efforts, undaunted by the apparently overwhelming odds we are facing.

Some of these people may well have been anthroposophists at the time of Rudolf Steiner. In a lecture given on 16th September 1924, Steiner said this:

“(…) I would wish to kindle in your hearts something of the flames that we require, so that already now within the Anthroposophical Movement we may absorb the spiritual life strongly enough to appear again properly prepared. For in that great epoch after shortened life in spiritual worlds we shall work again on earth — in the epoch when for the salvation of the earth the spiritual Powers are reckoning on their most important members, in their most important features, on what Anthroposophists can do.”

“I think the vision of this perspective of the future may stir the hearts of Anthroposophists to call forth within themselves the feelings which will carry them in a right way, with energy and strength of action and with the beauty of enthusiasm, through the present earthly life; for then this earthly life will be a preparation for the work at the end of the century when Anthroposophy will be called upon to play its part.”

I have recently been reading a book called The Michael Prophecy and the Years 2012-2033, written by Steffen Hartmann and published by Temple Lodge. Among many interesting ideas, Hartmann quotes Anton Kimpfler who has suggested that the beginning of the present era should be dated from the Mystery of Golgotha – that is to say our present time should properly be considered as having begun in AD 33. Intriguingly, he points out that Steiner wrote on the cover of his Calendar of the Soul of 1912: “1879, after the birth of the ‘I’ “. (33 years earlier.) Kimpfler says that Rudolf Steiner believed that AD 33 should be the beginning of the new era. If that is the case, then our current year should not be considered as being 2021 but is really 1988 – so we have not yet reached the end of the 20th century. We therefore have another twelve years until the end of the century, which takes us to 2033 in our normal reckoning. 

It seems likely that these next twelve years will be decisive in resolving “whether earth civilisation will be redeemed or lost,” a battle in which each of us needs to play a part and the importance of which cannot be overstated. And while Steiner’s generation of anthroposophists may already all have reincarnated, there is still time for many more people to realise that they are four times twelve human beings and to accompany the further unfolding of the Christ power on earth.


Filed under Anthroposophy, Karma, Rudolf Steiner

30 responses to “Four times twelve human beings

  1. kathyfinnegan

    Jeremy, I am so grateful for this topic. It resonates deeply for me. The only thing that clearly surfaces at this moment is that the “others” that will join us may be etheric beings making themselves known at this time. I am eager to hear thoughts and experiences from others. Thank you.


  2. anthonykmdouglass

    Thank you for this! Very intriguing and promising to say the least…


  3. Judith

    Hello Jeremy, I always read your posts and always find them useful and uplifting. I appreciate all that you have written and have been thinking it over. With all due respect, I do have another proposal to suggest concerning the four times twelve people. I have been reading the lectures of Rudolph Steiner for over twenty years and while I am certainy no expert at all, I do feel inspired to offer an alternative explanation as food for thought and for further personal reading and reflection. In the series of lectures “Esoteric Christianity and the Mission of Christian Rosenkreutz”, one of the lectures – GAD130 – ‘Rosicrucian Christianity – Lecture 1’, deals with a meeting, a council of 12. “Twelve outstanding personalities who united together to help the progress of humanity”. This took place during the thirteenth century at a time when mankind needed a new spiritual impulse. This “lodge of a very spiritual nature” comprised of 12 individuals, seven who could look back into the seven streams of Atlantean cultural epoch and the remaining five each had wisdom of the Post-Atlantean Epochs, the fifth being of the present Fifth Post-Altantean Epoch, the most intellectual among them. A thirteenth joined them and the lecture focuses on the importance of the outcome of this council meeting. Steiner has repeated in other lectures the importance of twelve people meeting, not least does this remind us of the twelve apostles and the thirteenth being Christ Jesus, Himself. So I personally believe that four times twelve means four more meetings of a council of twelve, not necessarily the same individuals but four more meetings of twelve, outstanding individuals (maybe higher beings too?). In addition, this may not mean now but in the course of centuries. The Leadership of the Goetheneum (Spiritual Science) is not only the present leaders but higher beings too, and over a longer span of time. I must emphasize this is just a thought inspired by your article and reminded me of the above lecture series I read about a year ago. I hope this is uesful for you, (Sorry that it is so long) I highly recommend reading all the lectures in the series I mentioned above, They contain amazing insights and help to deepen our Spiritual Science understanding. Thank you Jeremy for bringing these issues to light so that we can share insights and thoughts together. Much love, health and strength in these difficult times.


    • Thank you, Judith, for your kind words and helpful thoughts. My assumption is that Steiner was speaking directly to and of anthroposophists but I may well be wrong – what do others think?


  4. Frank Thomas Smith

    Jeremy, you wrote towards the end, “But at our present stage, we are four-fold beings functioning through our threefold constitution of body, soul and spirit, with the ‘I’ as a higher part of the soul component. (Yes, I too find this horribly confusing!)” What confuses me is that you say “…with the I as a higher part of the soul component.”


  5. Ton Majoor

    In beginning of the Last Address, Steiner pointed to the four seasons:

    “And it will be one of the more beautiful results that can follow from our anthroposophical understanding of times and seasons, if we are really able to add to the other festivals of the year a rightly ordered Michael Festival.”


  6. Hans

    It is very hard to find a clue for understanding this, Jeremy. Indeed it is puzzling. Maybe there is a hint in the Germant text but I only red the English version. I cannot do anything else than guessing. My understanding is that in order to make a difference we need 12 people in each of the four “corners” of the Earth: East, West, North, South. Steiner also says somewhere in this last lecture that Michael is nothing else than the force of the Christ. However, there must be good reasons for Michael to realise his mission in his own right. If the Michael school will spread with even more strength into all corners of the world in order to save it in the last remaining 12 years, it is important to let Michaela manifest him/herself in her own right even though she is identical with the Christ. Because in some corners of the world the Michaelic forces of transformation and Peacebuilding can work more effectively in the universally acceptable, sharable, persona of Michaela. In contrast with the past, these groups of twelve (4 x12) pioneers of the School of Michaela, will be overwhelmingly women, and/or men who are all driven by the etheric forces of Mother Earth, or the reincarnated Christ in female manifestation. (An opportunity symbolically opening by the UN Decade on ecosystem restoration 2021-2030).(Waiting for us from ca. 1930 onwards but obscured by world wars and a misleading spirit of extreme, heroic, extractive, oppressive, masculine, economic growth).


  7. Kyle J

    Hi Jeremy, this is quite a fascinating subject here. Thank you for sharing!

    My thoughts are still a bit fragmented on this posed riddle, but I’ll take the risk to share nonetheless. Would love to hear other’s thoughts.

    My guess is that 4 and 12 are directly related to the subject matter of the individual soul he mentions about in various incarnations: Elijah/Lazarus-John/Raphael/Novalis. My initial feeling from reading his address was that he purposefully illustrated this being and his deeds to give his audience an idea of what to aim for (or live up to, perhaps? i.e. Michaelic Though/Power). Before elaborating, I’m wondering if the 4 represents the ‘cross’ (or crucification), and the 12 represents ‘initiation.’

    My train of thought:
    Steiner mentions again and again about earthly this and earthy that, regarding the soul of Raphael/Novalis, which he left – or, redeemed? – himself through his deeds, and resurrecting them to the higher, super-sensible spheres. This seems to be a kind of crucification/resurrection symbology. I think it’s related to what is described here:

    “Only through the building up of a moral world order by intelligent self-conscious individuals can the world process be led towards its goal. … True existence is the incarnation of the Godhead; the world process is the Passion of the incarnated Godhead and at the same time the way of redemption for Him who was crucified in the flesh; morality, however, is the collaboration in the shortening of this path of suffering and redemption.”
    -GA004 PoF Ch. 10

    On Godhead, twelve, and initiation:

    “They knew: we are twelve, and among us, the thirteenth lives. Alternatively, one took a thirteenth who represented the centre of attraction in the circle of the twelve for that which should descend. That means this thirteenth was the deputy of the godhead in the mystery sites. Because everything was related to the holy triad, one called that, who combined the being of the triad, the representative of the holy triad, and round him were the twelve who had particular functions like the limbs of an organism…”

    “…Goethe spoke not without reason in his poem The Secrets about a human being who is led to a house that is decorated with a rose cross. “Who has associated the roses to the cross?” Who were the initiates of the European mysteries who associated the secret of the roses to the secret of the cross? It becomes obvious that Goethe had penetrated these secrets, gathering twelve human beings as already in the old drotten mysteries.”
    -GA057 Where and How Does One Find the Spirit? Lecture 18

    Steiner also refers to ‘Christianity as a Mystical Fact’ in reference to Lazarus/John (who was initiated by Jesus), and here we have mention of initiation and crucification:

    “The Father has created the world out of the cosmic body and the cosmic soul. In perfect proportions He has united harmoniously the elements which came into being when He offered His own, separate existence by diffusing Himself. Thus the body of the world came into existence. On this body of the world, the soul of the world is stretched in the form of a cross. This soul is the divine element in the world. It has met with death on the cross in order that the world may exist. Plato is able to call nature the tomb of the divine element. This is not a tomb containing something dead, but something eternal, for which death only gives the opportunity to express the omnipotence of life. Man sees this nature in the right light when he approaches it in order to deliver the crucified soul of the world. It must be raised from death, the spell must be lifted from it. Where can it come to life again? Only in the soul of the man who is initiated. In this way wisdom finds its right relationship to the cosmos. The resurrection, the deliverance of the Godhead: this is cognition.”
    -GA008 Christianity as a Mystical Fact

    And here, mentions again of the cross and Plato:
    “People generally understand so little of all this that even the letters on the Cross are not interpreted aright. Plato said of it that the world soul would be crucified on the world body. The Cross symbolises the four elements. The plant, animal and human kingdoms are built out of these four elements…
    … ‘Earth’ is the place where Christianity itself must at first be brought, to that Temple to which man himself has brought himself so as to be a sheath for what is higher. But the Temple is not yet understood by man.”

    It might be a long shot of associations here, but what Steiner is describing in this last address seems very relevant to past works/lectures concerning these subject. The importance of the individual of Novalis (or the soul who is all four incarnations as described), is that he is “a radiant and splendid forerunner of that Michael stream which is now to lead you all, my dear friends, while you live.” He who is 1) an initiate, and 2) sought redemption through a kind of crucification, deeds done on earth brought to the super-sensible realms. I’m not sure what the ‘times’ in ‘four times twelve’ means, so that is why I call it a long shot. Perhaps Steiner meant for it to both an esoteric and exoteric meaning, and perhaps he hoped that members in the Anthroposphical Society would band together “consciously” as a kind of initiation, or mystery ritual? I also assume he is talking to a crowd who already understands what these numbers mean.


  8. kathyfinnegan

    Might “4×12” be an adjective describing the four-fold developed human being with twelve functional senses now meeting those who come to join us in the skies all over the earth? Are we witnessing – participating in – “Michael Thought” coming “fully alive” – the final division of angels who grow in spirit, or descend?…and are those Angels us? .

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  9. Ton Majoor

    ‘A circle of people’ and Michael also in the Leading Thoughts (October 1924):

    “Those persons who can see the supersensible world bordering next upon the visible world, perceive Michael and those belonging to him in the manner here described, engaged in what they would like to do for humanity. … When through their vision such persons also succeed in opening the hearts and minds of others, so that there is a circle of people who know how Michael is now living among men, humanity will then begin to celebrate Festivals of Michael which will possess the right contents, and at which souls will allow the power of Michael to revive in them. Michael will then work as a real power among men. Etc.” GA026_c05

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  10. kathyfinnegan

    I feel increasingly aware that the distancing and isolation COVID has brought to us has served to buy us time for grasping a critical need: at this stage in the development of humanity we are running out of time to learn a critical lesson. Steiner speaks of the “great separation” happening. He distinguishes between those who seek karma to be “comfortable” and those who do not. He speaks of running out of time for changing gears in our relationship to the material world. My work is with those who hide what they know/see/think/experience in their subconscious minds so as to remain (they think) consciously “comfortable”. I am, of course, not free, myself, from seeking personal comfort over experiencing turmoil – but I teach what I need to learn

    As I read the lectures referenced in this post, Steiner is saying that the destiny between those who resonate with Anthroposiphy and those who do not, “casts its waves even unto the world of the angeloi and leads to a parting of the spirits”. Humanity’s destiny and Michael’s mission are inextricably linked. I am interested in how Anthroposophists experience this in their lives – not as an academic exercise, but as lived/personal experience.

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    • Kyle J

      Kathy, you must have read my mind. I actually wanted to follow up on your second comment regarding “division of angels who grow in spirit, or descend?” And then re-reading that lecture given on 16th September 1924, which Jeremy provided. If you don’t mind me asking, how do you see this parting of the angeloi – one’s that ascend and descend? Now, this is in reference to one’s who feel anthroposophy in our hearts (I can assume that’s us), and one’s we have karma with that are perhaps not taken by what anthroposophy speaks of. I’m still wrapping my head around this, and would love to hear your thoughts more on that.

      As you mention ‘lived/personal’ experience, I quickly mention it. I find it quite amazing that, even though I went through Waldorf as a kid (80’s-90’s), I still have only came across a small handful of people who have actually studied Anthroposophy. It’s almost difficult, even, to even talk about it with others unfamiliar, yet, karmically speaking… I’m mostly around ‘non-anthros’ and thus, alone in much of my feeling. But there must be a reason for that karmic placement. Is it to wake as many people up as possible? And again, I’m curious about this connection with the topic of Angeloi you mentioned.

      Jeremy quoted of Steiner “karma will be to harder to experience than it is for other men.” Part of this perhaps is our feeling of alienation growing up, or coming into the world. I suppose one thing is clear from my experience, is that for a good couple decades, I wanted to find that “comfort” of settling in, or perhaps not heeding “the call” or call for purpose. I suppose one can only avoid that responsibility for so long. I do feel that attaching less to this physical world, that, the purpose of ‘why’ we incarnate here in the first place becomes more clear. You know, like we aren’t an individual as in this one incarnation, but rather, comprise of several incarnations with one soul. We’re on a mission! One thing is certain, it’s not to find a ‘paradise’ here on the physical (i.e. ‘My kingdom is not of this world’)… and therefor, material comfort (in any manifestation).

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  11. Silver Moon

    Another interpretation of ‘the four times twelve humans’ is that it could be in the manner of the Apostles in that there was a representative of each Zodiacal sign. The four in this instance could infer the four temperaments, which Steiner places great emphasis on in the early stages of his ed-ucational principles. Steiner speaks at length about the form of initiation that has 84 steps – that is to say, seven times twelve steps where the seven planets are experienced in each of the twelve signs.

    When you say, “students of the Michaelic school whether they are in the Society or, more likely, outside of it, are today quietly getting on with their efforts, undaunted by the apparently over-whelming odds we are facing” – of those I meet, few have ever heard of Rudolf Steiner. However, on reading his works, and more importantly having worked to understand what he means with his circular arguments and often obfuscatory language, they discover that he has been speaking about things of which they have already had a personal experience. If proof were needed, they were handed it.

    It is a matter that those who are striving in a human manner will be looking towards the future of mankind. Rudolf Steiner speaks of how at the age of 28, the individual will choose either to head to the worlds of the spirit or to surrender themselves to that which is earthly. With so many choosing the latter – and choosing to aid and abet earth’s material decline by joining professions such as the law, accounting or management – is it surprising that their energies that have been spent on such unspiritual activities should be such a barrier to those who seek their part in the worlds of the spirit?

    What is important to realize is that the Michaelic School is a broad church that is not limited to specific manners of thinking. As Einstein once opined, “a problem is never solved by the thinking that created it.” An individual can learn from someone who thinks in a different way to them, even if that person cannot learn from the individual. Hence one may derive from this the fact that tol-erance is one of the markers of a member of the Michaelic School. Those who display any intoler-ance for any reason, however worthy that reason might be, they are still in a position where that intolerance needs tempering.

    It is worth remembering that this striving for the spirit is not a matter for the individual alone, it is a matter for their angelic friends beyond the threshold who will be responding to their activities at every opportunity. They can act through the densest thickets of opposition and provide inspiration which leads the individual to strive the harder. This is not a matter of success, failure or anything that can be measured in material terms; it is the quality of the striving that is at stake. For that is a quality of the soul that is tempered by the fires we must all cross with bared feet.

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  12. Hans

    Reading all the contributions with keen interest, I would like to come back to one issue that has not been discussed yet. These four times twelve people will be “recognized by the Leadership of the Goetheanum in Dornach”. In my understanding this could mean that towards the 100th aniversary of the Christmas conference, the leadership of the Goetheanum will appoint a “centenary task force” composed of 4 teams of 12 people from the respective areas of the world to shape the Michaelic School of the future.


  13. kathyfinnegan

    I am viewing our topic in combination with the signs of the times – as a developmental chapter in human history – or a critical act in the current drama. Is mankind poised to admit there appear to be inexplicable powers in the sky displaying intentionality – powers we don’t understand and can’t control? What is their relationship to us? Have they been with us from the beginning? How do they relate to the development of the human being? Are they the 4×12 people come to help? Are they varieties of Etheric beings accompanying the Etheric Christ? Are they a living demonstration of mankind’s future condition – a stage production of the course of human destiny? Are they enacting the Michaelic drama of the separation? And will Dornach recognize them or take a place among the patriarchs of our time?


  14. kathyfinnegan

    Morning, Kyle: Thank you for asking me how I view the parting of the angels. My thoughts about this have plagued me since childhood. I can only speak from the stresses and double binds of my personal history. When I was 4 or 5 years old I learned my mother didn’t see the world as I did. I remember trying to tell her that I saw a world inside – behind? – this one. And that It knew who I was – it KNEW me inside and out – and that it loved me so much. She told me I was “sleepy”. When she told me that, I literally had a horrendous feeling of falling and of being utterly alone. But in spite of the fact that other world had disappeared, I KNEW it was what was real – and this world was not. I believed myself, not my mother, and lost any sense of safety/comfort in this world. I lost my family and thought that there had been some terrible mistake – something terribly wrong that left me abandoned here.

    To make my long story short, over the years I came back again and again to why I had felt I was “falling’ and have felt (intermittently) so bereft and isolated. A string of circumstances throughout my life – I won’t belabor here – seem to point to my having a lifetime as a Cather in the Middle Ages. They were considered heretics by the Roman church and one of their beliefs is that they were (all humans are?) the fallen angels still engaged in the great sorting battle with Michael. As you know, Steiner has said (and this is easy for me to confuse) that in each age/epoch some successfully develop the “I”, and some fall behind – and those who fall behind have a chance to try again in a later epoch. Are we the fallen angeloi trying to get it right? – or maybe the prospective angeloi with a choice ahead of us?


    • Ton Majoor

      In Steiner’s karma lectures (1924), Platonists or Old Souls were described as ‘heretics’, who “saw more than other folk” and “who were most strongly touched by this opposition of the good and evil cosmic spiritual powers.”

      At that time, Platonism was branded a philosophical school, a sect (hairesis). And these heretics had an ‘underlying mood’ of soul: “On awakening man had the very real feeling: It was a language of spiritual Beings in the light-filled spaces of the cosmos in which I partook between my falling asleep and my awakening. … Heavily they felt the fact that the human soul is placed into a world where good and evil powers battle with one another.”

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    • Silver Moon

      I would like to take a brief look at the Cathars, for there are a few things that are not commonly known about them. The most important is their rejection of all that was earthly, given that they wanted everything in their life to be spiritual – and spiritual alone. The result was that they castigated their mortal bodies and abjured what might be politely termed ‘conjugal rights.’ Thus it was that there were few progeny born to Cathar parents. This is not a digression from your thoughts as it is important to understand why humans have material bodies where angels do not.

      This from Steiner’s CW 57 given in Berlin in 1909:
      “May the earth then be only a vale of tears, which one should leave? No, the earth was blessed, because Christ walked about it, because his body was built from the substances of the earth, and because He permeated the earth with his forces. — The first Christians spoke that way.”

      This element is what the Cathars could not understand. They only understood the earth as being evil. Later in the same lecture, Steiner speaks of how it is our work as humans to spiritualize our mortal bodies that they might become acceptable in the sight of heaven (so to speak).

      This from Steiner’s lectures in 1905:
      “While the human being seeks for his divine nature in himself, he wakes the god in himself, and this awakening is the awakening of the god who had found a kind of grave in the low nature.”

      Which brings me to the angelic nature of the human. As yet, we are not fully spiritual beings. This is something we must attain, and attain it by spiritualizing ourselves and that which we come into contact with, here on earth. Through this, we ourselves create that which is to come, New Jupiter. In this future incarnation of the earth, we will attain the position of the angels today, living as the tenth choir of angels where today’s angels are the ninth.

      It must be added that any fallen angel will of necessity be the company of Lucifer and thus evil; such is the nature of things. However, it is possible for the genuinely angelic beings to influence us to work on their behalf and this is part and parcel of how each of us finds a way to spiritualize both ourselves and the earth around us. Not only that, but the striving strengthens that bond between the human and their guardian angel. It is a positive spiral that is self augmenting, but it requires the individual to be willing to work for what is spiritual – and in our world, that implies the challenges will be daunting; no few have balked at those very challenges when con-fronted with their fiery nature.


  15. Mary Jane Noble

    I don’t have anything to add to this discussion other than to say that I enjoy reading all the contributions from the various personal searches for clarification on this topic.
    I am new to anthroposophy, having read, Christianity as Mystical Fact about 15 years ago, when I retired. Since then I have added a multitude of Steiner books to my bookshelves.

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  16. kathyfinnegan

    Ton, thank you for your thoughts and bringing attention to the karma lectures. I relate deeply to what you have said and quoted. I’m beginning to see that my “underlying mood of soul” relates to more than engagement in the battle, itself. It’s anger and rebellion against having to battle in the first place – and it’s that I can feel so abandoned in the process: “Heavily they felt the fact that the human soul is placed into a world where good and evil powers battle with one another”. I am thinking that belief in abandonment is at the root of the problem – maybe is, itself, “rebellion”. Yet in those few transcendent moments of contact with the Etheric Christ, – in those most holy moments – I know I am not alone. We are not alone. What I just can’t grasp is why I have to become so bereft before I can see it.


  17. kathyfinnegan

    Silver Moon, thank you so much for your post. While I knew the Perfecti branch of the Cathars minimized/rejected engagement in enjoyment of sensual experience – sex, food, etc. – I think I have always regarded their teachings as more reflective of the way I view life on earth in this epoch – that it is unspeakably beautiful and precious, and we are exploiting and killing it and it will not be “recapitulated” (Steiner’s word) when we move on to Jupiter. Then I tie myself in knots blaming God for such a design flaw in creation – interpreting “not being recapitulated” as meaning no more polar bears or elephants, etc. I’ve gotten some hints that this is not quite the way it really works, so I’ll keep at it.

    This morning I woke with something I’ve known for decades but never applied to spiritual matters. The human being is born with only one reflex – all the rest he develops through interacting with the physical earth. The reflex is the unconditional reflex fear of FALLING! (think angels and Michael). Exposure to threat, loud noises, cold temperatures, hunger…trigger the reflex. It is visual as the “startle posture” where the body curls to protect itself. And for the rest of our lives we work at managing that reflex. So instead of curling up in a ball and screaming with rage, through the development of our will, we override the startle reflex. Is this the process of developing the Consciousness Soul and is this unconditioned reflex the Ahrimanic Double we need to “redeem” so it becomes our Lesser guardian? And is this why my godchildren in Waldorf school were encouraged to march around their room before class, stamping their feet and shouting “NO, NO, NO” at the start of their day? And is it how we begin to wake up the chakras and develop into a 4×12 human being?


    • Silver Moon

      When you say, “Then I tie myself in knots blaming God for such a design flaw in creation” this thought implies a something of a misunderstanding as to the role of Evil in our world. Without evil – in the way we meet it most, we meet it as death — we would soon be overcome with a proliferation of herrings, flies, whales, tigers, sparrows and everything else. Evil had to be part of God’s plan, but only in as much as it acts as a dissolution of the impossibly fertile creativity of nature. In other words, nature is creative and would swamp the earth with living things – and the fact that they die means that there is a balance in nature. Which we have unwittingly upset.

      However, there will be no evil on Jupiter, but in the place of evil, the tenth rank of angels – humans to you and me – will consciously and of their own free will, limit themselves to that which they need and nothing more than that. In doing so, they will act as a conscious balancing force in heaven and evil will be unnecessary – but it is for this point that we need to deal with the evil that dwells within us. I will add that those who do not will see evil in others that simply is not there – and will be a reflection of their own mood of soul; such is the quixotic nature of the subconscious.

      It must be stated emphatically that it is and cannot be God’s fault that some humans have sought to destroy rather than learn. Learn how to live in a way that is in balance with nature, and in doing so, organize the soul to need only what is necessary and no more than that. The rewards for doing so are impressive, after all, one cannot buy happiness. One can only live in a way that allows happiness to arrive; those who buy it will always find themselves needing more: bigger cars, more money, more drugs.
      I do not want to get buried in semantics, but there is a quintessential quality to fear that it is always to do with something that has not been recognized. Thus your fear of falling is – and this can be thought through in reasonable terms – it is to be afraid of falling. What is more, being afraid of something is Lucifer’s domain and it was the Seraph Lucifer who first fell. Again, as with all things Anthroposophical – reasonable – it all ties together.

      After all, fear is something general that results from experiences that come to us from outside, and it is the understanding of fear that leads to us having the courage of our own convictions. This is how one overcomes Ahriman, the fallen Cherub. One overcomes Him not by suppressing, but through understanding and accepting. The challenges of the Fifth Epoch are essentially those of accepting other people’s viewpoints – which come from outside. Those who do not or see evil where there is none, will have failed this test at the first hurdle.

      The Lesser Guardian (just in case you’ve not met it yet) usually pops up when a person has made a decision based on nothing save their own reasoning. That is to say, no outside pressures are involved and the person is necessarily on their own – after all, only the individual can make decisions of this kind. The scale of doubt and worry that will have been part and parcel of this decision evoke the presence of the Lesser Guardian in the form of a litany of one’s errors and mistakes. It is quite a terrible thing to go through, and no few people have been driven mad by it; certainly, our society is in no position to help anyone afflicted by its occurrence. In common parlance, it is known as a ‘nervous breakdown’ (whatever that gobbledegook means).

      The consciousness soul is what inspires one’s positive response to the Lesser Guardian, and dealing with the fallout will lead to the first of the human’s spiritual members. Albeit, like the chakras, this can take an inordinate amount of time and the results, while worthwhile, are so subtle as to be all but impossible to discern.

      Have no fear as to animals on Jupiter. Remember that whilst they are only animals, they do have an ego in the worlds of the spirit (technically in the Astral realm, the Moon Sphere). This is ineffable and as with all things Jupiter, the good bits filter through. The animal ego gets there by default because of its spiritual nature. Rudolf Steiner speaks of this in his series of lectures entitled ‘Cosmosophy’ which is impossibly hard to get the head around, but does deal with Jupiter in some detail. Each realm that we have today, earth, plant, animal, will find itself elevated to some degree. Animals on Jupiter will have a limited amount of reasoning and will be able to have a chat with you – but it’s unlikely to be the kind of chat I like that is basically raw philosophy. Those of us who have developed our spiritual soul (consciousness soul) will find life on Jupiter bearable. Everybody else will find it unspeakably boring.

      As to the use of the word ‘recapitulation;’ in such circumstances, it is best to look at the broader aim of the lecture Steiner was giving. After all, when one hears a ‘Steiner said’ one has to ask the speaker which translation they’re using and why. The point of Steiner’s lectures was not to impart knowledge, which is bound to the brain – but to get people to reason things out for themselves in a manner that will prepare their soul for life on Jupiter. The other aspect to this is the real problem with Jupiter is that it is all but impossible to describe, and thus circumlocutions are needed. There is and can be no knowledge of what will come with Jupiter, because all that applies to our present earth. If you are to exist on Jupiter, you have to form your thinking to that which is appropriate for it.


  18. Ton Majoor

    The ‘twenty-four elders’ in the Apocalypse are called the ‘Time-Kings’ of four planetary conditions by Steiner. They are time spirits, like the Arche Michael:

    “We are accustomed to call these seven revolutions, these seven cosmic days, Manvantaras, and the five cosmic nights, Pralayas. If we wish to have it exactly correspond to our reckoning of time, we reckon two planetary conditions together, that is, Saturn and Sun, Moon and Earth; and we then get twenty-four revolutions. These twenty-four revolutions form important epochs in the representation of the world and we picture these twenty-four revolutions ruled by beings in the universe who are represented in the Apocalypse as the twenty-four Elders, the twenty-four rulers of the cosmic revolutions, the cosmic periods.” GA0104/19080619


  19. kathyfinnegan

    “Nervous breakdown” is a descriptive term for what happens when our unconscious defenses against what we fear seeing/knowing/admitting start to collapse. It is a default function (one among many) of the ahrimanic double until/unless it is redeemed within us and transmuted into the Lesser Guardian. And it’s what may be happening on an ever-broader scale as our desperate take on “reality” collapses.

    And this brings me back to our topic. In the July 15, 1907 lecture Steiner writes: “It is a shattering experience to see behind the scenes of the external world where higher super-sensible beings enter and play a part…(it is the) “strange destiny of those who are sincere Anthroposophists that they are not able to come to terms with the world, yet have to engage with it fully, with earnestness”. He ties this “shattering experience” in with the claim: ” For the first time, the Spiritual is preparing to become a race-creating force.”

    It is clear to me, both in my work and among the people I know, that there is a a growing awareness that things are very different – we will not be going back to “normal”. We are living in the time of the “shattering experience”. On the most obvious/superficial level people have become more sensitized to the connections among weather changes, types and availability of work, outrageous conspiracy theories, mass killings, increased military aggression around the world – and our vulnerabilities related to the world of AI (seeing we are, in so many unexpected ways, at the mercy of hackers, etc.). I have been approached about these things by so many people – not just patients, but coworkers, neighbors. I have been asked to prepare an in-service for staff in local nursing facilities – to help them cope with the increasing information being released about UFOs/UAPs! A co-worker – a fundamentalist Christian I haven’t seen for ages – called me out of the blue and would like to take me to lunch. I know we will be talking about little green men.

    I am interested in what anthroposophists think about those little green (gray)men. Is there anyone who connects them with our topic – with what is unfolding in the world of climate crisis, nuclear threat and – most of all – our deadly immersion in materialism? Is trust in our mutual three-dimensional reality collapsing? Is this a tipping point where more will be able to see into the spiritual worlds? What are these lights in the sky that defy the laws of nature? What are these beings that increasing numbers of people around the world believe they have encountered? At this time in history, at this time of shift of the earth epoch, does this relate to the “shattering experience” and the “race-creating force”? Are we, in this time, globally seeing “behind the scenes of the external world” – that we are not able to come to terms with but must engage with fully?


    • Richard Philps

      Hello Kathy
      It’s good to read your comments. If I can share a few of my own by way of a fairly general response. I suspect that what follows will be very familiar to you, however it’s sometimes helpful to hear someone else’s perspective.

      I’ve done very little research on the type of alien phenomena you describe, but have the impression that there may be a link to a ‘threshold experience’. My feeling is that they are not directly connected to the four times twelve.

      Since the end of the ‘dark age of consciousness’ at the conclusion of the 19th century, major changes have been taking place in the etheric realm of the Earth – with 1879, 1899 and 1933 being significant years. This has had an effect on our thinking and instincts, as well as our feeling and will, and on our relationship to space and time. Speaking generally, human development has led us to the point where, since around the turn of the 20th century, our consciousness has advanced to a new relationship with the Cosmos, initially in relation to the Earth’s etheric realm. This can be understood in the sense that normally evolving human consciousness has moved from a situation where no direct consciousness of spiritual space and time existed, save for the dream state, to a situation where our consciousness now stands on the threshold between physical and spiritual experience.

      For most, this transition is a largely unconscious process, but the symptoms of it are becoming more apparent in our modern times. For the one who has a more conscious experience of approaching the threshold, this emerging new awareness is often accompanied by the inner experience that the solid ground they had been accustomed to standing upon has been removed from under their feet. This is a very literal description – one has to learn to orient oneself in both a physical and spiritual experience at the same time and to come to terms with their different spatial and temporal laws – to live in a new two-dimensional world of living spiritual pictures as well as our normal three-dimensional world. Approaching the threshold consciously is not an “easy” experience and may initially provoke many emotions – a sense of isolation, fear, uncertainty or helplessness. But those too, for whom this is a less conscious process, can begin to have these experiences as certain aspects of the inner life which had hitherto remained in the sub-conscious, begin to rise to the surface.

      Against this backdrop, with regard to ‘alien’ experiences, I think one has first of all to distinguish what kind of experience it is. Is it a real spiritual experience (whether a true or a false one), or a reaction to something that has been created by human hand? In addition to the thousands of satellites orbiting our planet (which some mistake for a UFO), there are the emerging technologies connected to three-dimensional holographic projection, and it would be reasonable to assume that scientists, especially those connected to military intelligence, have been working secretively for decades on all sorts of UFO-like flying machines/drones etc. which require testing.

      A true conscious threshold experience can occur in many ways – for example by divine grace, through a destiny moment or a step forward in one’s own spiritual development. These can be seen as rightful experiences; one is protected from illusion.

      But the threshold can also be approached or crossed in an unprotected way via the use of certain drugs or stimulants. However, with these, the protecting Guardian is by-passed and one enters an illusory realm, but may not know it. Across the threshold, an inversion of consciousness takes place; one’s inner life becomes one’s outer surroundings; the content of the inner life appears outwardly in objective form. Someone who has prepared for such an experience will be protected from deception; someone who has taken a short-cut without the necessary preparation risks being deceived in relation to what they see and in relation to their experience of space and time. What they believe they are experiencing outwardly may in reality be a product of their inner life reflected outwardly in objective form. When they believe they are ‘seeing’ a beautiful angel before them, they may be seeing an outer reflection of what lives in their inner life as a feeling of compassion. Seeing a ferocious beast approaching may be an outer objective reflection of an inner feeling of hatred.

      The accounts of those who describe the same, or a very similar experience in relation to abductions or experimentation should, in my view, be treated with due caution. On the spiritual level being spoken of, a rightful experience will not be precisely the same as someone else’s, as the inner life or biography is unique to that individual – the spiritual pictures experienced across the threshold will therefore be unique to that person.

      I would suggest that a comprehensive study into ‘alien’ activity would necessarily include a focus on whether hypnosis, psychotropic or hallucinogenic drugs, or any other kind of potentially psychoactive medication had featured in the lives of those with such experiences. The work of Dr Peter Breggin on psychiatric medication may be worth looking at, as well as a look at the ‘awareness during sleep paralysis’ condition.

      I’ll finish off there and hope that some of the above might be helpful to your research.



  20. Richard Philps

    Thank you Jeremy for raising the matter of these enigmatic words from Rudolf Steiner’s Last Address; it’s been very interesting to read all the various comments. I recall a similar hidden message from a study group of some twenty years ago – we were studying a passage that included (if I remember it rightly): ‘if seven times seven human beings of courage could be found…….’. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to locate the particular lecture before writing this – perhaps someone knows where this mention can be found?

    Arriving at an understanding of what was being said may have been made more difficult due to Rudolf Steiner being unable to deliver the second part of his lecture. Perhaps further reference would have been made to the four times twelve human beings, or attention been drawn to incarnations of other individualities connected to the Michael stream in the same way that he referred to the Being of Elijah, Lazarus-John, Raphael and Novalis.

    Insofar as the “Leadership of the Goetheanum in Dornach” refers to those who form its leadership on the Earth in the period in question, it appears that much responsibility is placed upon them to recognize those twelve human beings in whom the Michael Thought has become fully alive. Achieving this task may depend on the extent to which this leadership group considers itself to be, and is able to act as, an esoteric group. The spiritual support offered to this small group by those outside it (speaking of those on the Earth) may be of great significance. Perhaps the events that have taken place within the Anthroposophical Society in the past one hundred years may cause the appearance and recognition of the twelve to occur in a different way to that which Rudolf Steiner anticipated.

    My suggestion towards an understanding of this riddle of the four times twelve draws on the following brief extract from Paul Mackay’s book ‘The Anthroposophical Society as a Michael Community’. He writes:

    “Here the number 4 can be connected with the four great cosmic directions called upon at the close of the first three (Foundation Stone) strophes. The number 12 evokes Rudolf Steiner’s reference to the twelve members of King Arthur’s Round Table as he spoke about the way in which karmic relations between people were brought into balance.”

    Working with this hypothesis, the following observations, based on notes by Richard Seddon concerning Elemental and Elementary Beings may assist. The call to the spirits of the four great cosmic directions (East, West, North, South,) as spoken in the original Foundation Stone verses, is made to the four groups of elementary beings, subsequently referred to in the verses as ‘Spirits’ or ‘Spirit-beings’. The first group is the elemental beings known as Gnomes, Undines, Sylphs and Salamanders which form the Earth’s etheric body. They are the offspring of the Third Hierarchy and Spirits of Form. The second, third and fourth groups of elementary beings (The Spirits of the Rotation of Time who form the Earth’s astral body – the offspring of the First Hierarchy) are responsible for the rotation of the Earth (from east to west), for the waxing and waning of the Moon, and for summer and winter (the Sun’s apparent movement between north and south). Thus, in addition to the elemental beings of nature in the etheric realm of the Earth, Rudolf Steiner also includes those elementary spirits who govern the relationships between Sun and Earth in east and west – and north and south. In the interrelationship between Sun and Earth live these offspring of ‘Powers of Sun’, the “radiant Beings of Aether-Worlds” mentioned in the Michael Thought verses, who form the garment of Michael and prepare the way for Christ.

    If this is so, one can imagine a karmically-connected group of twelve spiritually advanced human beings appearing on the Earth, geographically in the north, south, east and west. Perhaps they have as an overshadowing Spirit, the Being of Elijah. They carry, reflected within themselves, the four-fold harmony of the spiritual relationship between Sun and Earth, of the four great cosmic directions which together form Michael’s radiant garment of Light.

    So, here is another consideration to add to all the other contributions. There’s clearly much to ponder in the Last Address, including the reference to Hermann Grimm. However, as recalled by Alfred Heidenreich in his preface, Rudolf Steiner remarked that it can be more fruitful for the development of a human soul to ponder a spiritual problem rather than be furnished with a plain and neat answer.

    Related reading:
    The Spiritual Hierarchies (Their reflection in the physical world) GA110 – lecture two of 12th April 1909
    Spiritual Beings in the Heavenly Bodies and in the Kingdoms of Nature GA136 – lecture two of 4th April 1912
    Symphonies of Creation: The Primal Elementary Kingdoms in the Work of Rudolf Steiner – by Oskar Kurten – Temple Lodge Publishing 2018


  21. Ton Majoor

    According to Steiner’s Last Address (1924), Lazarus-John the Evangelist and Elijah-John the Baptist were ‘in truth one and the same figure’, because ‘the being of Elijah appeared again in Lazarus-John’ (google Powell, Prokofieff, von Halle, van Manen, Truding, Smith etc.).

    Anthroposophically speaking, the two biblical Johns represent the unification of a ‘young soul’ (a thirteenth within a council of twelve outstanding personalities, Rosenkreutz) with a supposed ‘old soul’ from above (the angelic group-soul of twelve apostles, Elijah).

    Accordingly, Evangelist and Baptist would be a prefiguration of the united Aristotelian (Arthur, sun) and Platonist (Grail, moon) stream in Anthroposophy today.


  22. anthonykmdouglass

    I commented when this post was first published. Since that time I have been “steeped” in Spiritual Science more deeply than ever before, which, of course, means little in the larger scope of things. I only mention this because after reading (again) the comments on this post and all of the complex (possible) interpretations of RS’s words, I must say (emphatically) that I believe Jeremy’s razor is the sharpest here. RS stressed time and again that nothing is set in stone as far as human evolution is concerned, therefore such a statement as “four and twelve” human beings should be interpreted as an adjective for “human beings” and not some formulaic contrivance we all have to wonder at and remain confused and uninformed as to RS’s intent. Apologies – I felt compelled to throw in a few more cents.


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