Folk spirits belong to the hierarchy of Archangels. As the people's I, they have an inspiring effect on the individual peoples and give them their specific, unmistakable character. Thus, through their work, very special soul characteristics are first formed and cultivated in each people, which are later to pass on as spiritual gifts to the whole of humanity. Each individual people, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant, has an essential and indispensable task in the course of the development of humanity as a whole. How and in what rhythm of time the spiritual fruits of each people are to overflow into the whole of humanity is guided by spiritual beings who are superior to the folk spirits, namely by the Time Spirits who are recruited from the hierarchy of the Archai (Primordial Angels, Primordial Beginnings, Spirits of Personality).
Just as a very clear distinction must be made between soul and spirit in human beings, so in a higher sense also in peoples. Folk soul and folk spirit are not the same thing. The characteristic feelings, moods, sympathies and antipathies and habits common to a people are expressed in the folk soul. It is the soul atmosphere in which all members of a people are involved to a greater or lesser extent. This unmistakable fundamental soul mood of a people changes in the course of time, it undergoes a process of development and is gradually refined. However, this requires the creative-inspiring activity of the folk spirit, which is taken up by individual outstanding human individuals - by artists, sages or important folk leaders - and incorporated into the folk soul.
„These beings are not concerned with the individual human being, with the single individuality, but have a more comprehensive task: they bring into a harmonious order the life of the individual and the life of larger human contexts, such as peoples, races and so on. Within our earthly development, the archangels have the task of bringing the soul of the individual into a certain connection with what we call the folk soul, the race soul. For for those who penetrate into spiritual knowledge, folk-souls, race-souls are still something quite different from what they are for the abstracts of present-day science or present-day education in general. On some territory, for my sake in Germany or France or Italy, so and so many people live, and because the sensual eyes only see so and so many people as external figures, such abstractists can only imagine what is called the folk spirit or folk soul as a mere conceptual summary of the people. What is actually real for them is only the individual human being, not the folk soul, not the folk spirit. For those who look into the real gears of spiritual life, what we call the folk soul or folk spirit is a reality. That which we call a fire spirit or an archangel lives and weaves in a folk soul. It thus regulates, so to speak, the relationship of the individual human being to the totality of a people or a race.“ (Lit.:GA 110, p. 93f)
„Just as the group soul directs the regular migrations of the birds over the earth, so man, after he has developed his spirit self or manas, will command what we call the physical and etheric body, command them, set them in motion. In a still higher sense, man will be able to direct them, to set them in motion from outside, when he will have developed so far that he will also be able to rework the etheric or life body. Such beings who can do this already exist today. These are the Archangeloi or Archangels. They are beings who can already do what man will one day be able to do, beings who can accomplish what one can call "directing his etheric and physical body from outside", but who can also work on their own etheric body.
Imagine the concept of beings who work, so to speak, around our earth, who are contained in the spiritual atmosphere of our earth with their I, who have already transformed their astral body from this I, so that they possess a fully developed spirit self or manas, but who now continue to work with this fully developed spirit self or manas on our earth and work into human beings by transforming our etheric or life body; Beings who stand on the level on which they transform the etheric or life body into Buddhi or life spirit. If you think of such beings, who thus stand on the level of the spiritual hierarchies, which we call Archangels, you have a concept of what is called "folk spirits", what is called the directing folk spirits of the earth. The folk spirits belong to the level of the Archangeloi or Archangels. We shall see how they in turn direct the etheric or life body, and how they thereby again work into humanity and involve it in their own activity. If we look at the various peoples of our earth and single out individual ones, then we shall have in the peculiar weaving and life of these peoples, in what we call the special, characteristic qualities of these peoples, an image of what we can regard as the mission of the folk spirits.
When we recognise the mission of these beings - inspirers of the peoples are these beings - then we can say what a people is. A people is a group of people who belong together and who are led by one of the Archangeloi, one of the Archangels. The individual members of a people get what they do as members of the people, what they perform as members of the people, inspired from such a side. By imagining that these folk spirits are individually different, like the people on our earth, we shall find it comprehensible that the individual different groups of the peoples are the individual mission of these Archangeloi. If we visualise spiritually how in world history people work after people and also people next to people, we can now imagine, at least in an abstract form - the form will become more and more concrete in the next lectures - that everything that goes on there is inspired by these spiritual entities...
Now we still need a mediation between the higher mission of the folk spirits and those beings who are to be inspired by them here on earth. You will easily recognise, first in an abstract form, that the mediators of these two kinds of spirits are the hierarchy of Angels. They form the mediating link between the folk spirit and the individual human being. In order that the human being may receive into himself what the folk spirit has to instil into the whole people, in order that the individual human being may become an instrument in the mission of the people, this mediation between the individual human being and the Archangel of the people is necessary for this purpose.“ (Lit.:GA 121, p. 26ff)
The Archangels, who work as folk spirits, seek to establish a relationship with the human being through the air element, i.e. primarily through breathing, and through the vegetative nerve plexuses of the abdominal and pelvic area, in which the sexual organs are also involved. More than one might think, the problem of nationhood can thus be related to the sexual problem → Sexuality and Nationalism.
It should also be noted that the human being connects with the folk souls in a very different way when awake and when asleep.
- Rudolf Steiner: Geistige Hierarchien und ihre Widerspiegelung in der physischen Welt, GA 110 (1991), ISBN 3-7274-1100-7 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen im Zusammenhang mit der germanisch-nordischen Mythologie, GA 121 (1982), 5th edition, ISBN 3-7274-1210-0 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org ; 6th heavily revised and expanded new edition 2017: ISBN 3727412119
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