Monday, April 4, 2011
The First Stages of the Development of the Earth
Theosophy and Rosicrucianism. Lecture 10 of 14
Rudolf Steiner, June 25, 1907:
Let us consider today the transformation of the ancient Moon into the present Earth. But first of all we must draw attention to an important phenomenon of the Moon development. When this development drew towards its close, when everything which I have already described to you had more or less taken place, the ancient Moon and the Sun were reunited. The ancient Moon found its way back, as it were, to the Sun, and as a result a uniform body arose. These two celestial bodies which were reunited then passed over into a kind of latent planetary existence. Out of this came forth the fourth metamorphosis [1: Saturn; 2: Sun; 3: Moon; 4: Earth], which did not immediately resemble our present Earth, for the present condition of our Earth was prepared gradually and slowly. A study of the Earth in particular can give us a clear conception of the cosmic law that later conditions of development must in a certain way repeat conditions which have already existed. Before the Earth became our present planet — after awaking from its latent planetary condition — it had to repeat briefly the Saturn, Sun, and Moon conditions. Of course, this development took a somewhat different course than in the case of the three planets themselves.
Upon Saturn we found the first foundation of the sensory apparatus which we now possess. During the first repetition of the Saturn condition these sensory forms had progressed so far that a kind of human shape could develop; but during this metamorphosis the automatic sense-apparatus did not as yet possess an etheric body. The etheric body was embodied during the repetition of the Sun condition, and the astral body was added during the third transformation, the repetition of the Moon condition. During the third phase we once more have Sun and Moon as separate bodies in the cosmic space. But the beings who lived upon them had in the meantime developed further; they had gradually prepared themselves for the experiences which awaited them upon the Earth. There, a fourth member was added to the three bodies which the animal-like human race possessed upon the ancient Moon, and this fourth member was the Ego.
But this course of development did not take place so quickly. While the Earth was passing through its Saturn epoch, the automatic sense-apparatus of man had to mold a form enabling it to absorb the Ego. During the Sun repetition the etheric body also transformed itself, so as to be able to become the bearer of an Ego, and during the Moon repetition the astral body underwent a change enabling it to take in the Ego. These members waited, as it were, for the moment when they could take in the Ego.
What we have been able to pursue thus far was the separation of the Sun from the Moon. Then comes a stage which more closely approaches our present development, namely the separation of the Moon from the Earth. Two bodies emerge from the ancient Moon: one — which consisted of the worst material in regard to its beings and substances — was thrown out into the cosmic space, and the other formed the present Earth. It was necessary to eliminate that which would have hindered the beings from their further development, and this part which was cast out became the present Moon. After the elimination the Earth existed as an independent cosmic body. This entailed powerful cosmic events: first the separation of the Earth plus Moon from the Sun, and then the separation of the Earth from the Moon. These two events prepared our present development.
I have led you as far as the point where our Earth became an independent sphere. Let me now lead you to this point by following another direction, so that you may have a clear idea as to the exact position of this point in regard to our Earth. Let us go back from the immediate present into the past; let us go back from the present form of the Earth, which you all know, to a past condition. Even natural science draws attention to the great differences between the present and the past aspect of our Earth. All this, to be sure, is based on hypotheses, but in this field natural science meets spiritual science to some extent. Natural science says: Huge virgin forests once existed in the regions which we now inhabit; their climate was one which we now encounter in equatorial zones, and gigantic animals lived in those forests.
According to the statements of modern natural science the face of our Earth once presented quite a different aspect from the present one. The Ice Age followed the tropical climate and preceded the present temperate one. Every book on geology contains these facts. I am only telling you this in order to show you that the face of our Earth underwent great transformations in the course of certain epochs of time and that now it presents an entirely different aspect from that of the past.
As far as the external aspect of the Earth is concerned, natural science, which only disposes of the combining intellectual power, of apparatuses, etc., can only look back upon a few thousands of years. The descriptions of a clairvoyant looking back upon the past development of our Earth must, however, differ from those of natural science, though a kind of harmony will one day be established between natural science and spiritual science. Natural science draws attention to a fact which a clairvoyant can ascertain without any doubt: namely, that the face of our Earth has not only changed in regard to plants, but that continents and oceans once existed in regions of our Earth where they no longer exist. Huxley, for instance, pointed out that a whole part of Great Britain has already been submerged by the ocean four times. Thus the face of our Earth constantly undergoes a transformation. In volume 12 of “Kosmos” you may, for instance, find an article on the so-called old continent of Atlantis, where a scientist who completely adopts the standpoint of natural science proves, through the configuration of the flora and fauna in Europe and in America, that the present Atlantic Ocean must once have been a continent, and that great parts of Africa must in those times have been covered by the ocean. On the other hand, the continent of Atlantis existed in the West, stretching between the present Europe and America. This scientist only speaks of the fauna and of the flora of Atlantis, which is of course natural. But even if remnants of the ancient human beings who were our ancestors could be found (they must exist at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean), it is not possible today to investigate to such an extent the bottom of the ocean. The clairvoyant, however, can look back as far as the time of Atlantis, and he knows that this ancient Atlantean continent, which Plato describes, really existed. Essentially speaking, the whole surface now covered by the Atlantic Ocean was once Atlantis, and this continent was inhabited by the physical predecessors of the present human race. Of course they had a rather different aspect from the one imagined by modern natural science.
We should not in any way compare them with the present apes; though psychically and physically the Atlanteans greatly differed from modern men, they were not apes. Apes did not exist at that time, for this animal species only arose much later; simply through the fact that certain human shapes of that time remained behind at the stage of development which had then been reached, and afterwards degenerated, sinking down to a lower stage. Darwinism consequently makes a great mistake, which is, however, easy to detect. If we have before us two men, one upon an imperfect stage of development and the other a man who applied his faculties in order to perfect himself, and if we are told that these two men are relatives, we shall not say: They are relatives, and consequently the more perfect man descends from the less perfect one. Yet Darwinism comes to such a conclusion: The perfect and imperfect specimens stand side by side; one developed upwards by applying his faculties in the right way, while the other led them down and thus became decadent. That is how apes, the descendants of human beings, confront man. An ape is a caricature of man, but he is not like a human being.
At the time of Atlantis there existed an entirely different human race, which gradually developed towards a higher stage. But certain men remained behind in there development, and because the Earth itself underwent changes, these beings also changed; they degenerated and became a caricature of man — they became apes. These lower beings, the apes, are consequently degenerated specimens of higher beings who had become decadent.
If we study the Atlantean man, an observation of his psychic qualities will give us the best idea of his way of living.
All that modern men are able to do — to think logically, to calculate, etc. — all this arose much later. Logic, the power of judgment, etc. were unknown to the Atlanteans. But on the other hand they had a soul-quality which has now become decadent; they had an almost inconceivable power of memory. They could not calculate twice two is four, nor make this calculation over and over again through intellectual power, but they could bear in mind the result obtained by multiplying two by two, and they were always able to remember this result. This is connected with an entirely different constitution which existed on that ancient continent. If you wish to have an idea of the physical aspect of that continent, imagine a mountain valley filled with thick fogs and mists: The Atlanteans never saw an atmosphere which was free from moisture. The air was always filled with water. When the ancient Atlanteans came over into Europe,they preserved the memory of this condition and they called the land of their ancestors“Niflheim”, which mans the land of fogs.
When the last third of the Atlantean epoch drew towards its close, the Atlanteans began to notice that they were Egos. The Ego foundation had indeed existed for some time, and the Atlantean even had a certain feeling for the Ego, but only during the last third of the Atlantean epoch he learned to say clearly: “I am an Ego.” This is connected with the relationship of the etheric body with the physical body.
If you observe these two bodies, you will notice that they more or less coincide, but the etheric body slightly protrudes above the physical body. Between the eyebrows there is a point which constitutes a center for certain forces and streams of the etheric body, and this corresponds to a definite point in the physical brain. These two points must coincide; on this depends the capacity of being able to experience oneself as an Ego, to calculate, combine, etc. In the case of idiots, for instance, these points in the head do not coincide, and when this is the case, man's power of judgment no longer functions properly. In the case of the Atlanteans these points did not coincide, and this is still the case today with animals. If you observe the head of a horse you will find that these two points are far apart. In the Atlantean, the etheric head protruded and his physical head had a retreating brow.
But the Atlantean had something which man lost when the etheric body and the physical body began to coincide. The Atlantean still possessed dull clairvoyance, but he was, for instance, unable to count up to five. All his judgments were based on his capacity of remembering incredibly distant times. And that old clairvoyance appeared as the enhancement of our present dream-life. Imagine the highest enhancement of this dream-life: this would lead you to the conceptual capacity, to the ancient, dull, dream-like clairvoyance, of the Atlantean. When the Atlantean walked over the Earth he could indeed see the human beings in their physical involucres more or less as we see them today, but this perception had in a certain way a misty and foggy outline. The Atlantean could, however, perceive something which we cannot perceive. When we meet someone today, we do not see anything special of his inner being, we can only see what his features reveal to us: a gloomy expression will tell us that he is sad and will enable us to guess something of his state of mind. But when an Atlantean encountered someone who had evil intentions towards him, a brown-red vision rose up before him; and if that person loved him he saw a blue-red vision. A kind of color vision harmonized with the psychological state of the other person; the Atlantean could still perceive something of what took place in the inner being of other men. An Atlantean walking along, who saw a terrible red-brown fog rising up before him, ran away, for he knew that a dangerous animal was approaching (perhaps it was still far away), one that would surely devour him.
The ancient Atlantean clairvoyance even had a physical foundation. For the Atlantean considered that only his close relatives belonged to him (to a far greater extent than was the case later on). Small communities existed which did not extend beyond the family circle. It was of greatest importance to marry only within this restricted family circle. These marriages between closely connected relatives produced a blood mixture which preserved the etheric body's capacity to receive spiritual influences. Had the Atlantean attempted to marry outside his family circle, he would have suppressed his clairvoyant faculty and, astrally speaking, would have become an idiot. It was a moral, ethical law to remain within the blood-ties of one's family. Before the Atlantean was able to have a definite experience of his Ego,he said “that am I” to his whole blood-brotherhood. He considered himself as a part of the whole blood-brotherhood, even as the finger is a part of the hand.
But something else is based on this fact. The Atlantean could not only remember his own experiences, but also the experiences of his father, grandfather, great-grandfather, etc., reaching far down the line of the generations, as far as the founder of his family. Everything which came from there, everything which streamed through the line of the generations, was experienced as a unity. This can show you how greatly developed was the memory of the Atlanteans! Everything was based upon memory. Later on we shall see how man lost this powerful memory because he broke through the circle of close marriages.
An Atlantean soul necessarily required quite a different physical nature and environment than is the case today. He needed an environment described, for instance, in the legendary “Niflheim” of the ancient Germans. Legends and myths are not in any way based upon so-called popular fancy or poetic invention. The origin of such legends can be clearly traced. The Atlanteans still possessed an ancient, dull clairvoyance, and the events which were later on related and preserved (though frequently in a distorted form) in the legends and myths of various nations really occurred.
The transmigration of the Atlanteans to the East has been preserved wonderfully in a cycle of European legends. Man could not say “I” to his individual personality when he still lived on the ancient Atlantean continent. Consequently egoism, which later on constituted the foundation of social life, did not exist among the Atlanteans. The inhabitant of Atlantis considered as his possession everything which belonged to all his blood-relatives and he felt that he was a member of this blood relationship. Then came the transmigration to the East. Man's Ego-consciousness emerged more and more, and with it, human egoism. Man once lived far more in the external world than within his own being; Nature still formed part of his being. He felt as if he were embedded in Nature, as if he were a part of Nature. With the acquisition of his Ego-consciousness, the world around him became narrower and narrower; he separated himself from his environment little by little and the Ego emerged more and more.
This was at the same time connected with a process of Nature. When the old Atlantean looked up to the sky he could not see the Sun as we see it today; thick masses of fog filled the air, and when he looked at the Sun and at the Moon he saw an immense circle of rainbow colors. Then came the time when the Atlantean could perceive the Sun and the Moon as such. But there was one phenomenon which was unknown to the Atlantean: the rainbow. When the waters of Atlantis began to leave the atmosphere, when rain alternated with sunshine as is the case today, then the Atlantean learned to know the rainbow, for there no rainbows in the moisture-filled atmosphere of ancient Atlantis. Now bear in mind that great stretches of land were laid bare by the great Atlantean flood, and this has been wonderfully preserved in many legends, particularly in the Bible. Consider the deep truth contained in the Bible words: “And when the waters had departed, Noah saw the rainbow”. Only when the atmosphere became freed from the fogs and mists of Atlantis could the Sun appear to man in its present form. This process accompanied the narrowing of man' s being, so that he became confined within his own self, within his Ego.
For reasons which have a profound meaning, spiritual wisdom defines the light flooding through space as the etheric gold, and gold is looked upon as the condensed light of the Sun. The ancient Atlanteans were taught by their teachers that there is a connection between the light of the Sun and gold, and they took in the following image: “The light of the Sun, the gold of the Sun, shines forth! It envelops us with a ring which frees the Ego, bringing about the fact that we no longer experience ourselves selflessly as a part of Nature”. Among the Atlanteans the Ego was still dispersed within clouds of mist, but now it began to enfold him like a ring.
The mists of Atlantis left the atmosphere; they were pressed down and appeared in the West as rivers. For the descendants of the Atlanteans, the Rhine was nothing but mist which descended from the air and then flew along as a river. In the Rhine they perceived the masses of water still permeated by light; in the Rhine they felt the presence of the Sun's gold, which exercised such a pure and selfless influence upon the inhabitants of ancient Atlantis. They saw this gold in the Nibelung treasure of the Rhine, and anyone who strove to gain possession of this treasure was their enemy.
Richard Wagner, who describes this in music, was not clearly conscious of this truth, but nevertheless he was inspired by this powerful, encompassing fact. Remember the Prologue to “Rhine Gold”: Is the wonderful organ-theme in E sharp not the point where the Ego enters humanity? But even as the plant does not know the laws according to which it grows, so the poet does not require the full knowledge of what he writes. We must think of the creative artist as one who is inspired by forces which stand behind him. In this case, a conspicuous artist has felt something which must again enter mankind. We can therefore see that even in art the same spirit which lies at the foundation of spiritual science streams into human culture. We can see it flowing into it from two directions. This is how we should consider life as a whole.
We have traced human evolution as far back as Atlantis. Let us now consider a few more details. At that time men did not build houses such as they exist today, for they could utilize to a far greater extent the forces which existed in Nature. Masses of rock were molded together with that which existed in the environment, and constituted dwelling places which resembled natural houses. The further back we go, the more we come across men endowed with clairvoyance and possessing an image-consciousness. In a visionary form, in pictures which rose up before their souls, they could see the feelings of those who lived 'round about them. In the early Atlantean epoch, even the human will presented quite a different aspect. Today you can stretch out the finger of your hand through your will, and this action is connected with your thinking. But in the early Atlantean age the body was a far more supple mass. The Atlantean could not only stretch out his finger, but he could even make it longer or shorter; he could easily make his hand grow when he saw a small plant; he could make it grow through an effort of his will. He disposed of a kind of magic. He also had a strange connection with the animal world; he still perceived something which later on could no longer be perceived and he exercised a fascinating power over animals through his gaze.
If we go back still further, we reach an age in which even Atlantis did not exist; people then lived upon a continent designated as “Lemuria”. It stretched south of our present Asia, as far as Africa and Australia; this was the continent inhabited by our ancestors when they were Lemurians. Their body was far softer than that of the Atlanteans, and their will far more powerful. But the ground under their feet was most unsteady; fire eruptions, vulcanic powers, continually upheaved it; ancient Lemuria was a kind of fire-country.
If we go back still further, we reach a time in which the osseous system began to develop out of a boneless mass, and then comes a time in which the Earth had not yet developed the present mineral kingdom; everything was in a constant state of flux and reflux.
The further back we go into the evolution of the Earth the greater is the degree of heat which we encounter. We reach an age in which the forms now constituting our solid Earth were in a liquid state, like mercury or molten lead. The solid state only developed in Lemuria. Thicker and thicker grow the masses of mist. This was not a sea of fog, but a thick ocean of hot steam, containing all kinds of molten substances whirling within it. Man's predecessor could already live in certain parts of this steam, but he of course possessed quite a different constitution from the present human being. We thus reach a time in which man lived in a kind of primordial ocean, in a warm, fiery-watery element. The Earth's kernel was enveloped by a kind of primordial ocean, containing the germs of everything which developed later on.
This was the aspect of the Earth immediately after the Moon's exit from it as a separate body.
We have now gained insight into a course of development reaching to the time in which the Sun first severed itself from the Earth and from the Moon, and when the Moon severed itself from the Earth, leaving it in the condition described above.
Tomorrow we shall once more consider this process which I have set forth just now from two aspects, and then we shall consider the further development of man and of the Earth, reaching as far as the present time.