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.