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Mephistopheles flying over Wittenberg, in a lithograph by Eugène Delacroix

Mephistopheles or Mephisto is one of the names of the devil. In Goethe's Faust drama, he appears as a luciferic-ahrimanic hybrid, in which - especially in the second part of the tragedy - the destructive-ahrimanic part predominates. In some respects, he resembles the Dajjal (Arabic الدّجّال ad-Dajjāl ‚the deceiver‘), who is known from the tradition of the Hadith in Islam and who, according to Islamic eschatology, represents the epitome of evil. In the end times of the world, the Mahdi would confront him as the Messiah sent by God and kill him.

Origin of the name

The etymological origin of the name is not exactly clear. In William Shakespeare the form "Mephistophilus" is found, while in Christopher Marlowe it is "Mephistophilis". In the old folk books and puppet plays there are different variants such as "Mephostophiles", "Mephostophilus", but also the most common form today, "Mephistopheles", used by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

This leads to different possible origins:

  • Mephostophiles points to a Greek origin (the one who does not love the light, from Greek me = not and phos = light).
  • Mephistophiles could derive from Latin mephitis and Greek philos (the one who loves the stench).
  • Another possibility would be a derivation from Hebrew, namely a combination of mephir (Hebrewמפּר "to break, to hurt"[1], in the sense of "contract-breaker, swear-breaker, destroyer, corrupter") and tophel (Hebrewתפל "liar, deceiver"). Rudolf Steiner also agrees with this interpretation: "Mephistopheles is called the one who corrupts through lies, Mephiz, the corrupter - Tophel, in Hebrew, the liar." (Lit.:GA 53, p. 325)

Goethe, too, was apparently aware of these different possible origins, as can be seen from Faust's remark about Mephistopheles: "If you are called fly god, destroyer, liar" (fly god as the one who loves the stench and destroyer, liar according to Hebrew etymology).

„In other lectures, too, I have already drawn attention to the fact that basically the explanation of the name "Mephistopheles" is simply to be found in Hebrew, where mephiz means the hinderer, the corrupter, and tophel means the liar, so that we have to understand the name as applying to a being that is composed of a bringer of ruin, of hindrances to man, and on the other hand of a spirit of untruth, of deception, of illusion.“ (Lit.:GA 107, p. 162)

Steiner here interprets the Hebrew word tophel (תפל) as "liar" - and ultimately the English word "devil" (German: "Teufel") is also derived from it:

„That Mephistopheles may be brought together with the devil or with the idea of the devil, is already aimed at by the name; for the word "tophel" is the same as "the devil".“ (Lit.:GA 107, p. 163)

In the Hebrew Tanakh, however, the name "tophel" is mentioned only once and in a completely different context. There it refers to a place of the Edomites in the desert on the other side of the Jordan southwest of the Dead Sea, near which Moses spoke to the people of Israel (Deut 1:1).

Rudolf Steiner on Mephistopheles

Rudolf Steiner speaks at great length about Mephistopheles in a lecture given in Berlin on 1 January 1909 (Lit.:GA 107, p. 161ff):

„The figure of Mephistopheles, from which we want to start today, you all know, of course, from Goethe's Faust drama. You know that the figure of Mephistopheles is a being. We do not want to dwell on the extent to which the poetic disguise corresponds to the occult facts. You know that this figure appears to us in Goethe's Faust drama as the seducer and tempter of Faust, who in a certain sense can be understood as the type of man who strives for the heights of life, and I have also pointed out in Goethe lectures what spiritual perspective the scene of the "Walk to the Mothers" opens up, where Mephistopheles holds the key in his hand to open up a region into the dark undergrounds where the "Mothers" sit. Mephistopheles himself cannot enter this area. He only points out that it is a region where below equals above: "Sink then! I could also say: climb!" Both would mean the same thing for this mysterious area. We also know that Mephistopheles describes this region as such, for which he uses the word nothingness. In a certain way, then, he represents the spirit that sees in the nothingness a worthless thing for him in this region. Faust responds to this in the same way that the spiritual aspirant might respond to the materialist thinker today: "In your nothingness I hope to find the universe!

Goethe research - and there is such a research - has made the most varied efforts to unravel this figure. In other lectures I have already drawn attention to the fact that basically the resolution of the name "Mephistopheles" is simply to be sought in Hebrew, where mephiz means the hinderer, the corrupter, and tophel means the liar, so that we have to understand the name as applying to a being that is composed of a bringer of ruin, of hindrances to man, and on the other hand of a spirit of untruth, of deception, of illusion.

Anyone who follows the introduction to Goethe's "Faust", the prologue in heaven, will be struck by the sound of a word that, as it were, has lasted for thousands of years. Goethe included the words between God and Job from the book of Job in the beginning of his Faust. You only need to read the book of Job, how Job lives as a just, good and pious man, how the sons of the God of light meet before God and a certain enemy of light is among them, and how a conversation develops between the enemy of light and the supreme God, to the point that this enemy of light says he has wandered through the lands and sought various things, tried various things. Then God asks him: Do you know my servant Job? And the enemy of light - that's what we'll call him for now - says to the God: he knows him, and he would certainly be able to lead him astray from the path of good, to destroy him. And you know how twice this spirit has to try to get at Job, how he then gets at him by corrupting his outer physical body. He expressly describes this by saying to God: "He will not fall away if you take hold of his possessions, but if you take hold of his flesh and his leg, he will fall away! Who would not like to hear this in the words of "Faust", where in the prologue God calls out to Mephistopheles in heaven: "Do you know Faust? ... My servant!" - And then we literally hear again the rebuttal of the spirit, which at that time, according to the Book of Job, confronted God, when this Mephistopheles says: he could "lead Faust gently along his road", he could lead him astray from the paths that lead into the world, which is called the good one. So we literally hear the sounds of millennia beating together in harmony here.

Perhaps you have often raised the question when the figure of Mephistopheles has approached you: Who actually is this Mephistopheles? And here serious mistakes are made, which, however, can only be rectified by a deeper occult insight. That Mephistopheles may be brought together with the devil or with the idea of the devil is already indicated by the name; for the word "tophel" is the same as "the devil". But the other question is this, and here we enter into an area of serious errors which are often made in the interpretation of the figure of Mephistopheles: Whether Mephistopheles may be lumped together with the spirit whom we call Lucifer, of whom we have often spoken in the history of the evolution of mankind, who approached mankind with his hosts in the Lemurian period and afterwards, and in a certain way intervened in human evolution? In Europe one is easily inclined to lump together with Lucifer the figure of Mephistopheles as it appears in Goethe's "Faust" and as it appears in all the various products of popular literature in which it already appears and which preceded Goethe's "Faust", in folk plays, puppet plays and so on. We find the figure of Mephistopheles everywhere, and the question is this: Are the figure and comrades of Mephistopheles the same as that figure with its comrades which we know as Lucifer ? In other words: Is that which approaches man through Mephistophelian influence the same as that which approached man through Luciferian influence? This is the question we must ask ourselves today.

We know when Lucifer approached man. We have followed the development of man on earth through the time in which the sun with its beings separated from the earth and in which the moon then separated from the earth with those forces which would have made it impossible for man to progress. And we have seen that at a time when man was not yet mature enough to allow his astral body to become independent, Lucifer approached man with his hosts and thereby approached man twice. It was towards the end of the Lemurian period that man was actually exposed in his astral body to the influences that came from Lucifer. If Lucifer had not approached man, he would have been spared certain damages, but he would also not have attained what we must count among the highest goods of humanity.

We can now make clear to ourselves what significance the influence of Lucifer has if we ask ourselves what would have happened if there had been no Luciferic influence since Lemurian times, if man had developed in such a way that Lucifer and the beings belonging to him had remained aloof from man. Then man would have developed in such a way that until the middle of the Atlantean time he would have remained a being which in all the impulses of the astral body, in all the motives of the astral body, would have followed the influences of certain spiritual beings standing above man, who through their influence would have guided man until the middle of the Atlantean time. Much, much later man would have directed his perceptive faculty, his faculty of knowledge, towards the sensuous world, so that in the Lemurian period and the first Atlantean period no passions, no desires would have arisen out of sense perceptions and man would have stood, as it were, innocently in the face of the sense world and in everything he did would have followed the impulses of higher spiritual beings implanted in him. It would not have been an instinct, like the instinct of today's higher animals, under which man would have done everything, but a spiritualised instinct. Every deed he would have done on earth would not have been stimulated by mere sensual impulses, but by something spiritually instinctive. But under the influence of Lucifer, man came to say earlier: This gives me pleasure, this attracts me, this repels me! - He has come to follow his own impulses earlier than usual, to become an independent being, to develop a certain freedom within himself. A certain detachment from the spiritual world thus occurred for the human being. One could say, if one wanted to express oneself clearly: without this influence of Lucifer, man would have remained a spiritualised animal, an animal that would have gradually developed in form, even in a nobler and more beautiful form than man has developed under the influence of Lucifer. Man would have remained much more angelic if this influence of Lucifer had not occurred in Lemurian times. But on the other hand, he would have been led by the higher beings as if on a string. In the middle of the Atlantean period something would have come to man as if with a blow: his eyes would have been fully opened, and he would have had around him the tapestry of the whole physical-sensuous world; but he would have seen it around him in such a way that behind every physical thing he would immediately have perceived a divine-spiritual, a world of divine-spiritual substrata. Whereas up to that time man, looking backwards in his dependence into the divine womb from which he had emerged, would have seen the Light-Deities acting upon him, shining into his soul, guiding and leading him, man would then have seen - and this is not merely an image, but corresponds to reality in a higher degree - that the full, clearly recognisable world of the senses would have been spread out before him.

But this world of the senses would have appeared like a transparent thing, behind which the other divine-spiritual beings would have appeared, which would have taken the place of what the human being had lost behind him. A spiritual world would have closed behind him, a new spiritual world would have opened before him. Man would have remained a child in the hands of higher, spiritual-divine beings. Independence would not have sunk into the human soul. This is not how it happened, but Lucifer first approached the human being, and Lucifer, so to speak, made a part of the spiritual world behind the human being invisible to him. For as his own passions, instincts and desires arose in the human astral body, they obscured the spiritual beings of the world from which he was born, which otherwise always remained visible. Hence it was that in those great oracle places of which I spoke last time, the ancient Atlantean initiates had prepared themselves precisely to see that part of the spiritual world which had been obscured by the influence of Lucifer. All the preparations of the guardians and disciples of the ancient oracles of the Atlantean Mysteries were aimed at seeing into this luminous spiritual world which had withdrawn from man through the Luciferic influence on the human astral body. And there they appeared, those figures which man observes in the various states of the soul, which run parallel to the initiation, which play from a world of light into ours, and which then clothe themselves in the dress which the astral world can give them. In the ancient oracles the Atlantean initiate saw in the spirit those figures which to him were rightly higher spiritual beings, which had not descended to the physical world and which therefore, when man entered the physical world prematurely, remained invisible to the ordinary gaze. But it could not be otherwise than that Lucifer himself, since he was, so to speak, an opponent of these worlds of light, also became visible to the initiated.

The hosts of Lucifer were visible at all to the Atlantean people who, in their dim clairvoyant consciousness - in states of sleep and in the intermediate states between sleep and waking - could live into the higher spiritual world. When a part of the world of light became accessible to these people, a part of the world directed against the world of light also became visible; not Lucifer himself, but Lucifer's comrades became visible. And as delightful and magnificent as the noble figures of the world of light appeared in their astral colours, so terrible and horrible appeared the figures that belonged to the opposite, the seductive world.

So we can say that within the evolution of mankind there was this influence of Lucifer to which man owes the possibility of error, of evil, but to which he also owes his freedom. If this Luciferic influence had not come, what I have just discussed before you would have occurred in the middle of the Atlantean period: the carpet of the sensuous world would have spread out before man, the minerals, the plant world, the world of animals would have become sensuously visible; the world of natural phenomena, lightning and thunder, clouds and air, the celestial phenomena would have become completely visible to the outer eye. But behind them would have stood unmistakably the divine-spiritual beings which were to penetrate man. Because the influence of Lucifer had previously worked, because man had previously absorbed this influence in his astral body, he had, from the Lemurian time up to the Atlantean time, so prepared his physical body, which at that time was still capable of transformation, that this physical body could now become the instrument directly for the carpet of the sensuous-physical world, which should have spread out in such a way that behind it the spiritual world would have become visible. And so the human being could not immediately see the physical-sensuous world in the form in which it would have shown itself to him at the same time as a spiritual world. Then the world of the three kingdoms of nature, which stood beneath man, approached him. It approached, the physical world, as a veil, like a thick blanket, which under certain circumstances covered the spiritual world. Thus man could not see through to the spiritual world; in fact, to this day he still cannot.

But because man had gone through this development, another influence was able to assert itself in the middle of the Atlantean time, an influence from quite another side. And we must not confuse this influence, which now asserted itself, with the influence of Lucifer and his comrades. Even if Lucifer first made man capable of succumbing to this other influence, even if Lucifer first made man's physical body denser than it would otherwise have been, still another influence had to approach man in order to lead him completely to the physical-sensuous world, in order to shut the world of spiritual beings completely off from man, to close it completely, so that man was led to the illusion: There is no other world than the world of physical-sensuous existence that spreads out before me! Since the middle of the Atlantean period, a quite different adversary has approached man than Lucifer, the adversary who, so to speak, clouds and darkens man's powers of perception and cognition in such a way that man does not make the effort, does not develop the impulse, to find out the secrets of the world of the senses. If you imagine that under Lucifer's influence the world of the senses would have become like a veil, so that the spiritual world would have been behind it, then through the influence of this second being the physical world has completely become a thick bark which closes up before the spiritual world, so that again only the Atlantean initiates could, through their preparations, come to penetrate this cover of the physical-sensual. The powers that approached man in order to darken his view of the other side of divine existence first appear to us in the great teachings which the great leader of the ancient Persian people gave to his followers and confessors, in Zarathustra. It was Zarathustra who had the mission of giving culture to a people who, unlike the ancient Indian people, did not long to return to the spiritual world through their natural disposition, but Zarathustra had the mission of giving a culture to a people whose gaze was directed towards the sensual world, towards the conquest of the physical-sensual world with the means of culture which can only be produced through the efforts of the outer sensual-physical human being. Hence it was not so much the Luciferic influence which came to man in the ancient Persian culture as the influence of that very figure which, since the middle of the Atlantean period, has come to man and caused a great part of the initiates to fall into black magic, because they were led by the seduction of this tempter to misuse that which had become accessible to them from the spiritual world for the service of the physical-sensuous world. That tremendous influence of black magic forces which led to the eventual downfall of Atlantis has its origin in the temptations of that figure which Zarathustra had to teach his people, as the figure which opposes the bright God of Light as Ahriman, Angra mainju, in contrast to the God of Light whom Zarathustra proclaimed as the Great Aura, as Ahura Mazda.

We must distinguish between these two figures, Lucifer and Ahriman. For Lucifer is a being that has branched off from the host of spiritual and celestial beings after the separation of the sun, while Ahriman is a being that had already broken away before the separation of the sun and unites completely different powers within himself. Lucifer's influence on man in the Lemurian period was no more corrupting to man than the influence which man still had in the Atlantean period, when he was able to influence the forces of air and water. You know from my book "Akasha Chronicle" that in the Atlantean times men still had at their disposal the seed forces which are in the vegetable and animal natures and were able to extract them in the same way as man today extracts the forces from coal which he uses as steam power to drive his machines. And I have told you that when these forces are extracted, when they are drawn out, then they stand in a mysterious connection to the forces of nature in wind and weather and so on; and when man uses them in an intention contrary to the divine intentions, then these forces of nature are drawn up against man.

This caused the Atlantic flood and those devastating forces of nature which then brought about the downfall of the whole Atlantic continent. But even before that, man no longer had any control over the forces of fire and the connection of these forces with certain secret forces of the earth. Fire and earth in a certain interaction were actually withdrawn from man even earlier. Now, however, through the influence of Ahriman and his comrades, man again came to have power over the forces of fire and earth in a certain way, and now in a corrupting way. Some of the things you hear about the use of fire in ancient Persia are connected with what I am about to tell you. Some of the forces that are practised as black magic and that are connected with it and lead to man's taking hold of quite other forces and gaining an influence over fire and earth can have tremendous, devastating effects. Black magic could have been practised by the descendants of the Atlanteans even in ancient Persia, if the teaching of Zarathustra had not pointed out how Ahriman, as a hostile power, affects men in such a way that he ensnares them, darkens them in relation to that which is supposed to emerge from behind the world of the senses as real spiritual power. Thus we see that a large part of the post-Atlantean culture - which emanated from Zarathustra and his followers - was influenced by the fact that man was made aware on the one hand of the effect of the noble God of Light, to whom man can turn, and on the other hand of the corrupting power of Ahriman and his comrades.

This Ahriman acts upon man through the most manifold means and ways. I have been able to draw your attention to the fact that it was a great moment for the development of the world when the event of Golgotha occurred. There the Christ appeared in the world which man enters after death. In this world the influence of Ahriman was much stronger than it was in the world that can be seen here on earth between birth and death. It was precisely in the world between death and the new birth that the influences of Ahriman worked on man with a terrible force and power. And if nothing else had happened, man would have been gradually darkened in the realm of shadows between death and the new birth - as the ancient Greek rightly felt. An infinite loneliness and reduction to human egoity would have occurred in the life between death and the new birth. And man would be so born into his life at the re-embodiment that he would have become a crass, a terrible egoist. Thus it is more than a mere figurative saying that after the event of Golgotha, at the moment when the blood ran from the wounds on Golgotha, the Christ appeared in the world beyond, in the kingdom of shadows, and put Ahriman in fetters. Even if the influence of Ahriman remained, and all materialistic thinking of mankind can basically be traced back to him, even if this influence can only be paralysed by people absorbing the event of Golgotha, this event has nevertheless become the one from which people draw strength in order to enter the spiritual-divine world again.

Thus, before the gaze of human knowledge, Ahriman first rose. Thus he became something that was suspected, of which something was known through the influence of the Zarathustra culture; and from there the knowledge of Ahriman spread to the other peoples and through their cultural conceptions. Under the most diverse names Ahriman appears with his hosts among the various cultural peoples. And because of the peculiar conditions in which the souls of the European peoples found themselves, who had remained furthest behind on the march from West to East, who had remained most untouched by what had gone on in ancient India, in ancient Persia, in Egypt, even in the Greco-Latin period, among these peoples of Europe, among whom the fifth cultural period was to revive, there were conditions of the soul such that especially the figure of Ahriman appeared to them as a terrible one. And while this assumed the most diverse names - among the Hebrew people it was called Mephistopheles - in the European world it became the figure of the devil in his various forms.

Thus we see how we look into a deep connection of the spiritual worlds, and many a time, when someone feels highly exalted above medieval superstition, one will probably also remember the saying of our Faust poet: "The people never feel the devil, even if he had them by the collar!"

It is precisely because man closes his spiritual eyes to this influence that he falls prey to it most of all. Goethe's Mephistopheles is nothing other than the figure of Ahriman, and we must not confuse it with the figure of Lucifer. All those errors which sometimes confront us in the explanation of Goethe's Faust poem are due precisely to this confusion, although, of course, Lucifer first made the influence of Ahriman possible, and therefore, when we look at Ahriman, we are led back to a primordial influence of Lucifer which could only come before our soul after we had made long preparations for it in order to recognise this more intimate connection.

This subtle difference must not be overlooked, for it is above all a question of Lucifer bringing man basically only under the influence of those forces which are connected with the wind and water forces. On the other hand, it was Ahriman-Mephistopheles who brought man under forces which are much, much more terrible, and in the next cultures many things will occur which have to be brought into connection with the influence of Ahriman. For the occult striver who does not strive on a firm and secure basis, the most terrible illusion, the most terrible deception, can very easily come about precisely through the Ahrimanic influence. For indeed Ahriman is a spirit who seeks to deceive about the true nature of the sense world, namely, to deceive that it is an expression of the spiritual world. If man has a predisposition to abnormal states, to somnambulistic states, or if through a certain incorrect training he awakens occult powers in himself and has something in himself which urges towards egoity, towards egoism, then it is precisely on the occult powers that Ahriman or Mephistopheles easily has an influence, an influence which can easily become a powerful one. Whereas Lucifer's influence can only be such that that which, so to speak, comes to man from the spiritual world - even in the case of those who are in incorrect training - appears as an astral form, as a form which becomes visible to the astral body, those forms which can be traced back to the influence of Ahriman appear in that the bad influences which are exerted on the physical body push through into the etheric body and then become visible as phantoms.

In the influence of Ahriman we are dealing with much, much worse powers than in the influence of Lucifer. The influences of Lucifer can never be as bad as the influences of Ahriman and those beings who are connected with the powers of fire. The influence of Ahriman or Mephistopheles may lead man, in order to gain occult knowledge, to perform, say, acts with his physical body. It is the worst means that can be used to attain occult powers, which consists in the performance and abuse of the physical body. In certain schools of black magic, indeed, such practices are taught to the fullest extent. It is one of the most terrible temptations to man when the starting-point for occult training is taken from the physical powers of the body.

It cannot even be referred to in detail here, but only to the fact that all machinations which somehow consist in an abuse of the physical bodily forces stem from influences which come from Ahriman, and that, because this presses itself into man's etheric body, it acts like a phantom, but like a phantom world which is nothing but the garment of powers which pull man down below the level of man. Almost all ancient cultures, the Indian, the Persian, the Egyptian culture, the Greco-Latin culture, have gone through their period of decadence, in which they decayed, in which the mysteries also decayed, in which one no longer preserved the pure traditions of the mysteries. In these times many of those who were either disciples of the Initiates and yet could not maintain themselves at their height, or such people to whom the mysteries had been unlawfully betrayed, have now come to wrong and evil ways. Sites of black magic powers emanated from these influences and have survived into our own time.

Ahriman is a spirit of lies who conjures up illusions for man, but who works with his comrades in a spiritual world. He is not a mirage, oh no! But that which is conjured up before man's spiritual eye under his influence is an illusion. When man's desires, when man's passions go bad ways and at the same time he somehow gives himself over to occult powers, then the occult powers that come out of this force their way into the etheric body, and the most pernicious, the worst powers appear among the mirages, which can sometimes be quite venerable figures. Such is the terrible influence of Ahriman on man.

From what has been said you can gather that, so to speak, precisely through the appearance of the Christ, if we want to use the expression, Ahriman has been put in fetters, but only for those who try more and more to penetrate the Christ-mystery. And less and less will be the protection in the world against the influence of Ahriman outside the forces emanating from the Christ-mystery. In a certain sense our time - and many phenomena announce this - is going towards these influences of Ahriman. Certain secret teachings also call the hosts of Ahriman the Asuras. They are, of course, the bad Asuras who have fallen out of the evolutionary path of the Asuras, who gave man his personality, in a certain time. This has already been indicated, that they are spiritual beings who separated themselves from the whole evolution of the earth before the separation of the sun.

We have now only described the terrible influence which Ahriman can have on a certain abnormal development which may proceed along occult lines. But in a certain respect the whole of humanity in the second half of the Atlantean period has, so to speak, come under the influence of Ahriman. The whole of the post-Atlantean period has in a certain way the after-effects of Ahriman's influence in it, on one part of the earth more, on the other less. But the influence of Ahriman has made itself felt everywhere, and all that was given to the peoples in the teachings of the old Initiates by the Light Spirits opposed to Ahriman, was basically only given in order to gradually withdraw from the influence of Ahriman. This was a preparatory, well-guided, wise education of humanity.“ (Lit.:GA 107, p. 161ff)

„The encounter with Mephistopheles will increasingly become a typical experience of our age, just as the encounter with the Luciferian powers symbolised by the Sphinx was characteristic of the Greco-Latin period.

"And in the Oedipus saga we see how man confronts the Sphinx, how the Sphinx chains herself to him, becomes the question tormentor. Man and the Sphinx, or we can also say, man and the Luciferic in the universe should, as it were, be placed as a basic experience of the fourth post-Atlantean cultural period in such a way that when man breaks through his outer normal life on the physical plane just a little, he comes into contact with the Sphinx nature. Then Lucifer approaches him in his life, and he must come to terms with Lucifer, with the Sphinx.

The basic experience of the fifth post-Atlantean cultural period, our period, is different. For our period this is especially prepared, that the etheric body is not puffed up, not expanded, but contracted, that it is not too large, but rather too small, and this will become stronger and stronger as evolution continues. If we can say: The normal form of man in the Greek is such that the etheric body is too large -, we can say: In modern man it is such that the etheric body constricts, contracts, becomes too small. -

Greek and modern man - drawing from GA 158, p. 103

The further man will progress in the materialistic contempt of the spiritual, the more this etheric body will contract and dry up. But since the organisation of the physical body depends on the etheric body penetrating it correctly, there will always be a tendency for the physical body to dry out when the etheric body is too much compressed. And if it were to dry out particularly badly, it would develop horn-like feet instead of the natural human feet. Man will not get them, but the tendency to do so lies in him, and it is founded in this tendency of the etheric body to dry up, to develop too little etheric power. It is into this dried-up etheric body that Ahriman in particular can live, as Lucifer does into the expanded etheric body. Ahriman will take on the form which indicates a poverty of the etheric body. He will develop too little etheric power to have properly organised feet, and will form the horn-like feet mentioned - goat's feet.

Mephistopheles is Ahriman; he does not have the goat's feet for nothing, he has the goat's feet for the reason I have indicated. The myths and legends are very significant; that is why Mephistopheles very often appears with horse's feet, where the feet have dried up into hooves. If Goethe had already fully penetrated the problem of Mephisto, he would not have had his Mephisto appear like a modern cavalier, for it is already part of the nature of the Ahriman-Mephisto not to have so much etheric power that he can completely organise the human physical form.

But another peculiarity is caused by the fact that the etheric body is, as it were, contracted, is poorer in etheric forces than is the case in the normal. This peculiarity becomes clearest to us if we take a look at human nature as a whole. In a certain respect we are already physically a duality. Think, when you stand like this, you are the physical human being. But it belongs to the physical human being that the breathing air is always within him. But the next time you breathe out, the air you breathe is already conveyed outwards again, so that the breath of air that permeates you is constantly changing. You are not merely that which consists of muscles and bones, the flesh and bone man, but you are also the breath man. But this changes continually, goes back and forth, out and in. And it is the respiratory man who is again connected with the ever-circulating blood.

How separate from this whole breathing-man lies in you the nerve-man, the other pole in which the nerve-fluid circulates, and it is only a kind of outer contact, an outer coming together between the nerve-man and the blood-man. Just as only those etheric forces which tend towards the Luciferic can easily approach the blood system through breathing, so the etheric forces which tend towards the Mephistophelian or Ahrimanic can only approach the nervous system, but not the blood system. Ahriman is unable to submerge himself in the blood; he can live continually in the nerves, live to dryness, to sobriety, because he cannot approach the warmth of the blood. But if he wants to develop a relationship to human nature, he will have to crave a drop of blood, because it is so difficult for him to get at the blood. An abyss lies between Mephistopheles and blood. If he wants to get close to the human being, to that which lives in the human being, if he wants to get in touch with the human being, then he will realise that the human lives in the blood. He must seek the blood.

You see, this is connected with the wisdom of the Mephistopheles legend, that the prescription is made with blood. Faust must prescribe himself to Mephistopheles through the blood, because Mephistopheles must crave the blood, because he is separated from the blood. Just as Greek man stood opposite the Sphinx, who lives in the respiratory system, so man of the fifth post-Atlantean cultural period stands opposite Mephistopheles, who lives in the nervous process, who is cold and sober because he suffers from bloodlessness, because the warmth of the blood is missing from him. And thus he becomes a mocker, a sober companion of man.

Like Oedipus with the Sphinx, man of the fifth post-Atlantean cultural epoch has to come to terms with Mephistopheles. He faces this Mephistopheles like a second being. The Greek was confronted with the Sphinx through the energetic process of blood and respiration; he was confronted with what came into his nature with the more energetic respiration. Modern man, with all that pushes out of his intellect, his sobriety, stands opposite that which is banished to the nervous process. This confrontation of man with the Mephistophelian could be foreseen prophetically, I would say poetically. But it will emerge more and more as a basic experience the further we get in the evolution of the fifth post-Atlantean period. And that which I have told you will appear in the child's experience will be this Mephistophelian experience.“ (Lit.:GA 158, p. 102ff)


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