“Those higher beings who were once the teachers of mankind descended from the cold North! We have actually found them, the group souls around the North Pole!” Rudolf Steiner (GA 107)
Margaret Jonas in her 2013 book, The Northern Enchantment Norse Mythology, Earth Mysteries and Celtic Christianity, from Temple Lodge shares wonderful insight about the mystery stream of migration that was led by Scythianos. She gives the most comprehensive picture of these little known and even less understood mysteries of the physical body. We are given the injunction by Rudolf Steiner to study the Norse and Finnish stories (especially the Kalevala) as a remedy for the social ills of our time. This rich source of inspiration for our time helps us unite the disparate forces of the soul so that a united ego (I am) can consciously approach our higher forces and our higher self. We can “look to the North” for the leading images of the future as we all try to forge the magical Sampo, which is at the heart of these northern epics.
The northern regions were thought to be a land of everlasting life or renewal of life where special beings might be found. In the ancient epochs of the earth there were beings who dwelt in the polar regions who had poorly developed physical bodies but highly developed ether bodies with great clairvoyant faculties. They could understand the wisdom of the stars and the hierarchies of spiritual beings; they belonged to a “group soul” of an advanced nature. They can be thought of as living in the air in a kind of paradise and were not dependent on the earth. They were to develop over time into the more advanced human beings of Atlantis.
Steiner refers to these beings as “Sun-men, or “Apollo-men”, reminiscent of the idea that there was a northern paradise-like region on earth called Hyperborea or Thule that has come down through the mythology of both Greek and northern peoples.
The northern stream of people retained a closer connection with the Sun-ether mysteries, and among these were the more closely guarded secrets which were held in centers in the north of what is now Scandinavia and Russia. These were the centers of the Drotts or Trotten, closely related to those of the earliest so-called “Druids.”
The leader of the northern stream was an initiate named Scythianos. At this time, he remained with those who settled in the European regions but was later to incarnate in the region of the Black Sea and guide the peoples knows as Scythians. In Ireland, he had already laid the seeds of the Hibernian mysteries of the west. The northern mystery stream included the Apollonian Greek mysteries, Russia, and Iran. The mysteries involved a penetration of outer nature forces and beings, and was a more macrocosmically inclined culture. Schooling was focused on penetrating the outer nature through the senses, allowing the etheric body to be loosened in a state of ecstasy, the astral body and ego to be lifted out, making way for a higher consciousness to fill the human being. This means of initiation is still a feature of shamanic practices today in the northern regions.
Scythianos’ mission was to be able to reach the inner depths of human souls so that they might be ready to receive the Mystery of Golgotha. He was the inspirer of song, rhythmic speech and music played on early instruments, possibly a kind of pan-pipes, the remnants of such powers were practiced by the bards and skalds in the west and north and are found in the stories of Apollo and Orpheus among the Greeks.
Rudolf Steiner’s Indications on the Northern Stream
Rudolf Steiner, The Being of Man and His Future Evolution, The Manifestation of the Ego in the Different Races of Men, May 3, 1909.
“For the reasons we have given it was in the area of the North Pole least possible for man to descend, as it were, and to incarnate in a physical human form in such a way that he could come to best expression within it. Therefore, in ancient Lemurian times it was just at the North Pole that those beings congregated who, if I may express it this way, laid no claim as yet to coming right down on to the earth, but who preferred to remain above in the regions where the air was still interlaced with vapor. Thus, there was at the North Pole in Lemurian times a kind of spiritual species that did not concern itself very much with the physical bodies that swarmed about on the earth below. From a spiritual point of view, seen by a present-day eye, this species consisted of transparent forms that were therefore not actually visible, and as such they were highly developed, but regarding their physical form they showed a lower form of humanity.
They lived in an etheric body and were beings of a more ethereal nature, having only a loose connection with the primitive bodies developing on the earth below that still had no density to speak of. These bodies were too dependent on the earth, and these spiritually more advanced beings only used them as sheaths to the very smallest extent. If, therefore, a man of the present, with his powers of perception, had been able to visit the North Pole in Lemurian times, he would have spoken about its population much in this way: What peculiar people!
“They are really very little developed with regard to their physical bodies, but this must point to something special, for as a people they are skillful and intelligent; it is as though they were being directed by strings from above! And so indeed it was, for the real human being did not descend on to the earth’s surface.
That is why the people living around the North Pole at that time were in the highest degree ethereal beings with highly developed etheric bodies but underdeveloped physical bodies; beings that as it were could grasp all the wisdom of the world with their etheric bodies, as though they had great clairvoyant faculties, and who looked out to the starry Heavens with an understanding of the beings who were weaving the life of world spaces. But you could almost say that their physical bodies were sleepy. Yet because they were led as though by strings from above, the deeds they performed were perfectly intelligent.
“Where the sun had least influence men developed in such a way that over large areas they all looked more or less similar to one another. For each of these beings that did not descend but was still ethereal belonged to a number of forms below. Up in the North they were group souls, whilst the souls around the Equator were more individual souls, and each human being was much more inside his own body. Thus the inhabitants of those regions that we find at the North Pole today had, in Lemurian times, the characteristics of group soul beings to the greatest imaginable degree. A great number of people looked up to their group soul. And if we look at these group souls as souls we will see that they were much more highly developed than the souls which, in Lemurian times, descended into physical bodies in the equatorial regions.
So we can say that the North Pole was populated by people that actually lived in the realms of air in a kind of paradise, and who had not yet descended as far as the earth. What we thus understand to be a necessary consequence of the foregoing you can now compare with what you encounter here and there in anthroposophical literature, namely that those higher beings who were once the teachers of mankind descended from the cold North!
We have actually found them, the group souls around the North Pole! If they wanted to become teachers of those people who were inferior souls and who entered more into physical bodies, then they had to descend further, too, and oppose the capacity of the clairvoyance of Lemurian times in their etheric body, or they had to sacrifice themselves and take on the physical human form of the Lemurian people.”
Rudolf Steiner, Greek and Germanic Mythology in the Light of Esotericism, The Sigfried Saga, Berlin, October 21, 1904.
“You must understand that all the streams I have named do not reach the northern world. None of the currents which passed over the Flame-race (India), the Star-race (Persia/Egypt), the Greco-Roman race, got as far as the northern regions. In the north there still remained something from the culture of Atlantis which had been brought over by Atlantean initiates. Wotan was an initiate of the northern peoples. He is none other than the bearer of the elements of Atlantean culture into these parts. Everywhere in these northern regions the Druid initiation was still practiced. I have already said that one of its founders, one can say its chief founder, was named Sieg.
Sieg renounced his body and placed it at the disposal of a higher individuality. Hence later the transformed Sieg was named Odin. Odin is the highest initiate of the northern Mysteries. He is the bearer of the spiritual culture of that time. Sieg therefore was the chela of the north who placed his body at the disposal of the higher, more spiritual Odin. He himself lived later as an initiate master (Scythianos).
“Sieg is a quite special case. Sieg had to lead this northern culture to its downfall. He is called upon to guide the northern peoples until the fifth sub-race of the fifth root-race reached them from the south. The ancient chela Sieg is the one who had to lead the northern peoples into tragedy. Hence he is also called Sieg-urt, which means, “he who leads into the past.” ‘Fried’ is the same word; it means, “that which leads to death, to destruction.” The very same Chela who had paved the way for the great initiate is to lead the northern culture to its downfall. Its spiritual content declines and is replaced by the rising Christianity.
What I am now saying is a prophetic augury which found expression everywhere in the later northern Mysteries. That is the note which sounds forth in the various Mysteries of these northern peoples. The whole of the future event, which had been indicated in the scriptures since primeval times, and which was to take place in the future, was predicted in the northern Mysteries.
“The northern peoples supplied the basis upon which the fifth sub-race could arise. We also call the race the race of the great discoveries and inventions, the race that has conquered the entire physical plane and that waxes great amid the harsh difficulties of the external world. It has both to possess things, and to develop its possessions. What are these northern races, the forerunners of Christianity, fighting against? They are fighting against all the old that has remained behind from Atlantis. They have continually to be on their guard against it.
“Thus you have four levels which come one after another. First you have Wotan, who comes over from Atlantean times; then Odin. Wotan corresponds with what develops during the second sub-race of the fifth root-race. The last before Siegfried is Balder, the sun-hero. He corresponds with what develops in the Chaldean-Babylonian-Assyrian epoch. But whereas what developed in the south is an ascending, a progressive culture, here in the north we find a mood of suspense, of expectancy, of waiting for something to happen Then we come down from god to man; and while the southern sub-race developed further, Siegfried became the initiator of this culture of suspense. It is steeped in tragedy. Because this northern culture is coming to an end you have the tragic deaths of Baldur, of Siegfried.”
Rudolf Steiner, A Picture of Earth-Evolution in the Future, Dornach, May 13, 1921.
“Whereas in the days of old Atlantis human beings came down to the earth from Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, and so on – that is to say, beings of soul were drawn into the realm of earth-existence – since the end of the seventies of last century, other Beings – not of the human order – have been descending to the earth for the purposes of their further development. From cosmic realms beyond the earth they come down to the earth and enter into a definite relationship with human beings. Since the eighties of the nineteenth century, super-earthly Beings have been seeking to enter the sphere of earth-existence.
Just as the Vulcan-men were the last to come down to the earth so now Vulcan Beings are actually coming into the realm of earthly existence. Super-earthly Beings are already here, and the fact that we are able to have a connected body of Spiritual Science at all today is due to the circumstance that Beings from beyond the earth are bringing the messages from the spiritual world down into earth-existence.
“And it is this which will plunge the earth into tragic conditions, for in the course of the next centuries more and more Spiritual Beings will be among us – Beings whose language we ought to understand. And this is possible only if we try to grasp what comes from them: namely, the substance and content of Spiritual Science. Their desire is that Spiritual Science shall be translated into social behavior and action on the earth.
“Since the last third of the nineteenth century, Spiritual Beings from the cosmos have been coming into our own sphere of existence. Their home is the sphere lying between the moon and Mercury, but they are already pressing forward into the realm of earth-existence and seeking to gain a foothold there. And they will be able to find it if human beings are imbued with the thought of their existence. This can also be expressed as I expressed it just now, by saying that our shadowy intellect must be quickened to life by the pictures of Spiritual Science. We are speaking of concrete fact when we say: Spiritual Beings are seeking to come down into earth-existence and ought to be willingly received. Catastrophe after catastrophe must ensue, and earthly life will fall at length into social chaos, if opposition is maintained in human existence to the advent of these Beings. They desire nothing else than to be the advance-guards of what will happen to earth-existence when the moon is once again united with the earth.
“These Beings of whom I have spoken will gradually come down to the earth. Vulcan Beings, ‘Supermen’ of Vulcan, ‘Supermen’ of Venus, of Mercury, of the Sun, will unite with this earth-existence. But if human beings persist in nothing but opposition to them, earth-existence will pass over into chaos in the course of the next few thousand years.
“The more affection man developed for the sensible physical world, the more he had to content himself with the vision of lower beings, and the less communion could higher beings have with him. All the beings who were his good companions during the Atlantean epoch, when he was still clairvoyant, disappeared, especially in the period between death and rebirth, and gradually the connecting link between man and those ancient Gods was lost.
“We know that remnants of ancient clairvoyance endured up to the later ages of European culture; that there were some people who in certain states of consciousness could still rise to the vision of the Gods. Such people also enjoyed a more vivid communion with the Gods after death; they had a more intimate life with them. Such a communion was good not only for men but also for the Gods, for man takes up with him the love he has won in the physical world; the Gods received back from him as a sacrificial offering that which as love he had acquired in the physical world. Men, however, grew ever less and less fitted for this communion with the Gods, because their love for the physical world continually increased.
The souls of those dwelling in the districts from which the Germanic peoples have since sprung gradually participated less and less in the vision of the Gods, so that they had little fellowship with them between death and rebirth. Through this an idea developed that the Gods were losing their connection with the earth which they had themselves created and losing also their rulership over it. This feeling gave rise to the conception of the “Twilight of the Gods.”
“This is the actual foundation of the drama. It was felt that the Gods had to withdraw from the world they had themselves created. The Gods who, even as late as the Atlantean epoch, had descended into the bodies of the most advanced human beings and had taught them important secrets in the Mysteries were obliged gradually to withdraw, and they could only come in touch with the physical world by using the more advanced human beings as their instruments or vehicles. This actually happened in the Atlantean epoch; and those who were initiated into the ancient Druidic Mysteries knew, for example, that an ancient Atlantean individuality known as Sig appeared for long after the Atlantean catastrophe in many different ways in European bodies.
“All such names as Siegfried and Sigurd preserve exoterically the remembrance of the repeated appearances of this individuality who was finally only perceptible to those who had been initiated into the Mysteries. He united himself with high Initiates, and it became more and more necessary, the nearer we approach our age, for him to seek out those who had already gone through many incarnations in which they had purified themselves.
“Let us turn once more to the middle of the Atlantean epoch, when the physical world was first disclosed to man. A sort of parting of the ways then took place for the Gods – those who had been the ancient companions of men in higher realms. Coming from spiritual heights man had plunged deeper and deeper into the physical world. He had already passed through three great epochs; the third being the Lemurian, the fourth the Atlantean and this will be followed by three others. We are living at present in the fifth epoch. The Lemurian epoch came to an end through great fire catastrophes; the Atlantean through mighty catastrophes of ice and water; our epoch will come to an end through other forces, through a mighty increase of egoism in human nature, and, on account of this, through the war of all against all.
“Only those who turn to a spiritual life will survive the catastrophe, which, in this case, means the war of all against all, just as only a small group of people escaped from the catastrophes of Lemuria and Atlantis. The war of all against all will be still more terrible for those involved in it than were those of fire and water, however terrible we may picture them to have been. Those who are now turning towards a spiritual life should feel it their duty to do all that is possible to rescue the good seed of our age and carry it over into the sixth age, which will follow the present one. This age is made up of great subdivisions; the ancient Indian, the Persian, the Egyptian, the Greco-Latin, and the present one, which will be followed by the sixth and the seventh right on to the time of the war of all against all.
“A certain point (which lies in the middle of the Atlantean epoch) was an important parting of the ways for certain spiritual beings. They had then to decide whether they would sink into a kind of abyss from which they would rise again later all the stronger or whether they would take the direct way. Certain spiritual beings, those who had formerly been the companions of man, took the direct way; they decided never again to enter human bodies, but to remain in the realms of the spirit. The subsequent development of humanity passed them by with hardly a trace.
There were, on the other hand, other divine beings, a number of whom have been preserved in the memory of the people of Europe and elsewhere under such names as Zeus, Wotan, etc.; they decided, for the salvation of humanity, to descend again and again into human bodies, that they might work for humanity. It was not possible for all of them to descend to the same extent, for through man having entered so deeply into the physical world human bodies became ever less suitable instruments for divine beings.
“Only those men who had purified their bodies in a certain way were still able to receive into themselves the souls of high Spiritual Beings as they would receive their own soul. So it happened that those into whom Spiritual Beings had entered could not, as it were, descend far enough into physical existence; they therefore held a very unique position in the world.
Spiritual individualities who were still the companions of men in the Atlantean epoch could be understood better by nations who had in a certain way remained stationary, and who represented, in a later epoch, conditions beyond which the people of Europe had developed because of their individual self-consciousness and feeling for freedom. Hence the teaching of these spiritual individualities had to be directed to such people, and we see here the consummation of a great mystery.
“We see beings who, when the people of Europe were at an earlier stage of evolution, were fully understood, incarnating and appearing later as teachers in the schools of initiation, and on this account being honored as Gods. We see Wotan, who had previously dwelt as an Initiate in a human body and taught in the Mysteries, being able, because he had not descended so deeply, to incarnate in a nation which, in a certain way, was backward, and on this account had preserved a feeling for the nothingness of the physical plane, of its unworthiness as an expression of the Deity, who looked on it as a place of sorrow and pain, and who held that the only real bliss was in leaving it. This individuality, known as Wotan and who had taught in the Mysteries of the Germanic peoples, is the same who appeared later as the Buddha, and with the same mission. Buddha, who mediated between our world and the higher worlds, is the same individuality who passed over Europe and is remembered there under the name of Wotan.
“How did that Archangel work, who was once upon a time sent up to Norway with the northern, the Scandinavian peoples, and from whom the various Archangels of Europe – especially those of Western, Central and Northern Europe – received their inspirations? In the world outside it would be reckoned as folly that the very spot in the continent of Europe should be indicated, from whence at one time the greatest impulses streamed forth in all directions, the spot which was the seat of sublime Spirits before the Celtic Folk-Spirit as Celtic Archangel had founded a new Center in the noble citadel of the Grail.
From that spot which in ancient times was the center for the outpouring of the spirituality of Europe, there also streamed forth that which was first of all given to the Archangel of the Northern peoples as his mission. If you were to draw something like a circle, so that the towns of Detmold and Paderborn were to lie within it, you would then arrive at that neighborhood from whence poured forth the mission of the most exalted Spirits who extended their mission to Northern and Western Europe. Hence, because the great center of inspiration was there, later on the Saga said that Asgard had actually been situated on this part of the earth’s surface. There, however, in the distant past, was that great center of inspiration, which later on transferred its chief activity to the center of the Holy Grail.
The peoples of Scandinavia, with their first Archangels, were at the same time given quite different tendencies, tendencies which at the present time are really only still expressed in the unique form of the Scandinavian mythology. If we compare, in the occult sense, the Scandinavian mythology with other mythologies which have reigned upon the earth, we may know that this Scandinavian mythology represents the primal tendencies of the Archangel who was sent up here to the North, the primal tendencies which have retained their original form
Although several things in the Germanic-Scandinavian mythology may appear curiously like the presentations of the Greek mythology, it must nevertheless be said that there is no other mythology on the earth which, in its remarkable construction and unique development, gives a more significant or a clearer picture of the evolution of the world than this Scandinavian mythology, so that this picture may be taken as a preparatory stage for the Anthroposophical picture of the evolution of the world.”