The Mission of the Folk-Souls - Rudolf Steiner

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The Mission of the Folk-Souls - Rudolf SteinerThe Mission of the Folk-Souls
in relation to Teutonic Mythology
Eleven lectures by Rudolf Steiner

The Mission of the Folk-Souls is a series of lectures given by Rudolf Steiner in Christiana (Oslo), Sweden in 1910, in which he describes the spiritual reality behind the concept of nation and race.

Conventional wisdom regards races and peoples simply as groups of humanity who settled and developed in geographically separate areas of the world, and therein evolved group characteristics - physical and cultural - which make them somewhat distinguishable from each other. Geographical adaptation, mono-cultural breeding and mono-cultural influence are all understood to play their part in giving a geographical group of people an identifying assemblage of characteristics. When formerly isolated groups eventually moved beyond their historical boundaries and bred and culturally exchanged with other cultures, such characteristics eventually became mixed and therefore moderated.

This view conveys a Darwinian randomness and certainly does not suggest any directing or organising influence apart from the physical imperatives that drive a group of people to stay in their homeland or to move beyond it - seeking more fertile land, for example.

In The Mission of the Folk-Souls, Steiner takes his starting point, not from what can be assumed as plausible and likely from physical perception alone, but from a developed perception of a spiritual reality behind the physical apparency, and this includes the seeming happenstance of cultural groupings. When he describes such a 'spiritual reality' he is necessarily talking about consciously active and creative spiritual beings of greater or lesser magnitude and influence. In many of his lectures he has described a vast hierarchy of spiritual beings ranging from the more or less automatic beings which comprise and animate what we experience as the natural world, to Beings which in form and function are well beyond ordinary human imagination. Such beings are not unknown to historical humanity and names such as angels, archangels, elohim, seraphim, etc. have been used in Western Esoteric Tradition, while other names for the same beings have been applied in Eastern cultures.

In ancient times the experience of one's race and people (nation or tribe) was felt much more tangibly than it is today by most westerners, whilst the experience of one's individuality ("I"-hood) was much dimmer and was felt to be within and subservient to one's feeling of belonging to the tribe. The experience of individuality only began to emerge and become active in the later Greek and Roman times, and this became intensified to the powerful inner independence we feel today from the fifteenth century onward. The further back we view into history and pre-history, the more is the individuality submerged within tribal feeling. This tribal feeling was not some imaginary or delusional state; it was the dim but definite perceptual experience (feeling) of living within the living aura of a Being who governed and directed the group. This Being, regarded as the God of the people, is what, in the ranks of the spiritual world, is called an Archangel. Such a Being is what Steiner also calls the group-soul or folk-soul of the people. All the mores, feelings, attitudes and even language of the people arose in the consciousness of the people through their immersion within aura of the group-soul, and it is through this immersion of the personal aura within the group-soul aura that each person felt their tribal identity.

As we move forward in time, the power of race-hood and national sentiment is expected to lessen as a result of cultural mixing, and through power of the Mystery of Golgotha, the individuality learns to develop beyond personal interests and cultural identification to what is universally human, and this felt as deeply as earlier humanity felt their tribalism.

The Mission of the Folk-Souls is a chronicling of the history of many cultures, races and groups as expressions of the activities of various group-souls, and also describes the evolutionary changes of the group-souls themselves as a result of this process.

This is one of those sets of lectures that will require reading and re-reading to tease apart the various paths of development described and to fathom their interweaving complexity, but certainly well worth the effort for those seeking to understand an anthroposophical view of world and human evolution.

Rudolf Steiner Press
11 lectures, Christiana (Oslo), 7-17 June 1910, GA121
192pp; paperback
ISBN: 1-85584-146-0

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The Mission of the Folk-Souls - Rudolf Steiner - GA 121