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Jacob Matham, copperplate engraving of one of the seven deadly sins (actually main vices): Ira (c. 1600)

Anger (LatinIra) or wrath is a state of momentary emotional excitement associated with strong antipathy, which arises from the sentient soul in which the I has not yet awakened to full self-consciousness. According to Roman Catholic doctrine, anger - Ira - is one of the seven main vices (which are also wrongly called the seven deadly sins). Rage, also called frenzy or fury (Latinfuror "frenzy, passion, madness"; Frenchrage) is a more persistent and difficult to control form of anger.

Anger is due to the Luciferian influence. It increases the Self-feeling. Only in this way can the I awaken to free consciousness of itself. Anger purified by the I is transformed into love and mildness.

„Both sides of the I are brought to development through anger. Anger has the mission of making self-ascension arise in us, and at the same time this self-ascension is transformed into selflessness. Anger, which burns itself into the soul, is a poison, that is, something that has a dampening effect on the self-ascension of the I. Thus anger is in fact a poison. Anger is indeed something that has a mission according to these two sides of human education, and we see how it becomes the forerunner of our independence and selflessness as long as the I cannot intervene in its own education. We would melt away if everything around us remained indifferent to us, if we were not yet able to make a calm judgement. We would not become selfless, but dependent in a bad sense, without egoity, if, before we have developed our I to a clear, luminous judgement, we cannot make ourselves independent through anger, where the outer world is not appropriate to our own inner being. Overcome anger, purified anger transforms itself into love and mildness.“ (Lit.:GA 58, p. 68f)

A good understanding of the development of anger and its transformation into love can be gained from the Greek tragedy of Aeschylus "Prometheus Bound".

„That is the deeper meaning of this saga. Prometheus, then, is the one who makes it possible for people to turn the I onto itself, to make it ever richer and fuller. This is precisely what was understood in Greece by the gift of Prometheus: the ability of the I to make itself ever richer and richer, ever fuller and fuller.

But we have just seen today that if the I were to develop only this one quality, then it would become impoverished over time, because it would close itself off from the outside world. That is only one side of the I, to make itself richer and richer. The I must carry this content out again. The I must bring itself into harmony with all the environment if it does not want to impoverish itself. Prometheus could only bring man the one gift that made the I fuller and fuller, richer and richer in content. In this way Prometheus had to challenge precisely those powers which, out of the whole existence of the world, dampen the I in the right way so that it can become selfless, so that it can also form the other side. What anger really does in the individual human being on the one hand, that it turns the I in on itself, that it makes the sting sprout out of it, which opposes it to a whole world, and what anger does on the other hand, by dampening the I at the same time, by the human being eating anger into himself, so to speak, through this affect, and by the I becoming duller, is illustrated in world history in the struggle between Prometheus and Zeus. Prometheus brings to the I the abilities through which it becomes ever richer and richer. That which Zeus now has to do is to work in the same way as anger works in the individual human being. Therefore, Zeus' wrath comes upon what Prometheus works and extinguishes the power of the I in Prometheus. The saga goes on to say that Prometheus is punished by Zeus for what he has done, because he has brought humanity forward untimely in the advancement of the I. He is forged on a rock. The inner turmoil that this human I experiences, forged to the rock, is expressed so grandiosely in the poetry of Aeschylus.

Thus, through the wrath of Zeus, we see the representative of the human I subdued. Just as the individual I of man is damped down, brought into itself, when it conceals this anger within itself, as it is thereby brought down to the right measure, so Prometheus is forged by the wrath of Zeus, that is, brought back in his activity to the right measure. As anger flows through the individual soul, the I is chained, if it wants to live itself out entirely in I-ness. As it is forged on by anger pushing down the I-consciousness, so the I of Prometheus is forged on the rock. That is the peculiarity of the comprehensive saga, that it presents such comprehensive truths, which apply to the individual human being as well as to the whole of humanity, in powerful images. That is the peculiarity of the saga, that it lets man see in pictures that which is to be experienced in his own soul. And so we look at Prometheus forged on the rock of the Caucasus and see in him a representative of the human I, which wants to move forward when it still broods dully in the soul of feeling, which is forged so that it cannot run riot into excess.

And then we hear further how Prometheus knows that Zeus will have to fall silent with his anger when he is overthrown by the son of a mortal. That will replace Zeus in his reign, what is born out of a mortal woman. Out of mortal man will be born - as the I is unleashed through the mission of wrath on a lower level - the I on a higher level, the immortal I. On a higher level, the immortal soul is born out of the mortal man. And as Prometheus looks to one who will replace the reign of Zeus, the reign of that God who can pour wrath on Prometheus, that is, on the human I, so that this I does not step over itself without measure, as Zeus is replaced by Christ Jesus, so the individual I, which is fettered by wrath, is transformed after the transformed wrath into the loving I, into the love which is the transformed noble wrath. We see that I, which intervenes in the outer world with blessing, mildness and love, developing out of the I bound by anger, just as we see a God of love developing out of it, who nurtures and cares for the I, which at first in an older time had to be bound by the anger of the god Zeus so as not to reach beyond its measure.

Thus we also see in the continuation of this saga an external tableau of the development of humanity. We must grasp this external tableau of this myth ourselves in such a way that it gives us alive for the whole Earth being that which the individual human being experiences in himself from the I educated by the mission of anger to the liberated I which unfolds love.“ (Lit.:GA 58, p. 68f)


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
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Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.