Monday, November 10, 2014
The Manifestation of the Ego in the Different Races of Humankind
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, May 3, 1909:
In last week's lecture we became familiar with everyday expressions of man's inner life, namely laughing and weeping, and today we will explore the conditions in both our immediate and more distant surroundings upon which this inner being of man, including man's whole evolution, in a certain way depend. As wide as possible a study of man is what we have been working at in these group lectures this winter, and we will go on studying man from as many aspects as possible.
If you consider what you know of earth conditions, then even if you look at these relatively superficially you would realise immediately that man takes on a different form in different regions of the earth. External bodily characteristics vary according to the different zones of the earth. You will remember that there are ‘races’, the black, red, yellow and white race, and that these races were originally connected with certain regions of the earth. You will also find this corroborated by history, either in what you learnt at school from the observation of purely physical, material conditions, or what we have learnt through anthroposophical science itself. Looking back into the ancient past, we see how the human soul and actually the human body too, developed in the different epochs of earth evolution. In the sphere of spiritual science we have looked back into ancient India, Persia, Egypt, and so on. And we saw how the various capacities that mankind has today, developed gradually in the course of ages. All this gives you an idea of how external conditions are connected with the unfolding of man's inner being. Now if even present-day earth conditions bring about such differences among men, what tremendous human differences must have come about since the very beginnings of our earth evolution, after it has passed through the Saturn, Sun and Moon evolution. We have described various details of this. What we are going to describe today, however, shall be considered from another point of view. For we shall really get to know human conditions if we continually consider them from different points of view.
At the beginning of earth evolution, earth, sun and moon were, as you know, still one body. The conditions within our whole evolution must have been entirely different then. Man, evolving in earthly evolution, would have been very different whilst the earth was still one with the sun; and how greatly he had to change as first of all the sun and then the moon separated from the earth! Now we know that the epoch after the sun and the moon had separated from the earth is also the so-called Lemurian evolution, in which man had only just begun to acquire a form that is anything like our present-day one. We have often described it by saying that this was actually the time when man descended from higher regions on to the earth. Although man was already in a physical body at the time when the sun was still joined with the earth, it was not like today's body. At that time he had the kind of physical body like you can imagine if you picture man today not standing with his feet on the earth, but raising himself into the air, as though he had no bony elements within him, but still belonged to the regions of air and water, whereby we must imagine the water dissolved in the air. He would have been like a transparent being on the periphery of the earth. A present-day eye would not be able to distinguish this human being from his environment, just as a present-day eye cannot distinguish certain sea creatures from their surroundings, because they look so similar. You can imagine such a being wafting through the air. Not until after the separation of the sun and the moon did man become like we know him today. What were the conditions necessary for man to develop into what he is today? It was essential that the sun's force should not work from inside but from outside on to the earth. That was the purpose of the separation of both sun and moon, that these two cosmic bodies should send their forces, like the sun sends its light, from outside on to the earth. Man could only acquire his present-day form because the sun shone on him not from below, from the centre of the planet, but from the side. Just imagine, if you care to assume such a hypothesis, that the moon were to fall back on to the earth, and the sun to reunite with it; if he wanted to survive in those conditions man would have to re-clothe himself with a body as airy as it was before, and he would have to be able to waft through the environment he is familiar with today. Thus man owes his present existence to the fact that the sun and moon shine on him from outside. We will disregard all the other forces today.
Now the sun and moon work in various ways from outside. The way the sun works in the region of the North Pole is very different from the way it works at the Equator. We get the impression of tremendous contrasts that acquired a meaning the moment the sun began to shine on to the earth from outside. You know, of course, that the nearer we get to the North Pole the greater are the differences between winter and summer. And right at the North Pole half the year is day and half the year night. When you think of these differences, then what spiritual science has to say about these things will make sense. It tells us that at the North Pole itself earth conditions in Lemurian times were the closest to those conditions existing on the earth when the sun and moon were still united with it. Today, of course, these conditions are quite different. But even today it is still to a certain extent true that at the North Pole the strongest influence is from the earth's centre to its surface, and the influence of the sun and the moon are at their least. What has made itself felt since Lemurian times, in the great increase of forces raying in from outside, has had the least influence of all at the North Pole, so the effect of the centre of the earth on its surface and everything living upon it is here at its greatest. On the other hand the influence of the sun and the moon is strongest around the Equator, and this was already so in Lemurian times. In the Kashic Record we can confirm that earth conditions changed to something completely new with the separation of sun and moon. This, however, led to a quite definite consequence. Something arose which was of fundamental importance for the whole of earth evolution. For the reasons we have given it was in the area of the North Pole least possible for man to descend, as it were, and to incarnate in a physical human form in such a way that he could come to best expression within it. Therefore in ancient Lemurian times it was just at the North Pole that those beings congregated who, if I may express it this way, laid no claim as yet to coming right down on to the earth, but who preferred to remain above in the regions where the air was still interlaced with vapour. Thus there was at the North Pole in Lemurian times a kind of spiritual species that did not concern itself very much with the physical bodies that swarmed about on the earth below. From a spiritual point of view, seen by a present-day eye, this species consisted of transparent forms that were therefore not actually visible, and as such they were highly developed, but regarding their physical form they showed a lower form of humanity. They lived in an etheric body and were beings of a more ethereal nature, having only a loose connection with the primitive bodies developing on the earth below that still had no density to speak of. These bodies were too dependent on the earth, and these spiritually more advanced beings only used them as sheaths to the very smallest extent. If, therefore, a man of the present, with his powers of perception, had been able to visit the North Pole in Lemurian times, he would have spoken about its population much in this way: What peculiar people!
They are really very little developed with regard to their physical bodies, but this must point to something special, for as a people they are skilful and intelligent; it is as though they were being directed by strings from above! And so indeed it was, for the real human being did not descend on to the earth's surface. That is why the people living around the North Pole at that time were in the highest degree ethereal beings with highly developed etheric bodies but underdeveloped physical bodies; beings that as it were could grasp all the wisdom of the world with their etheric bodies, as though they had great clairvoyant faculties, and who looked out to the starry Heavens with an understanding of the beings who were weaving the life of world spaces. But you could almost say that their physical bodies were sleepy. Yet because they were led as though by strings from above, the deeds they performed were perfectly intelligent.
In the equatorial regions it was different. The influence of the sun and the moon was becoming more and more active from outside. The air was interlaced and warmed through by the rays of the sun. All the phenomena taking place in the region of the air became dependent on the sun and the moon. And the result of this was that just in ancient Lemurian times the people of these regions descended deepest into their physical bodies, and their etheric bodies interpenetrated their physical bodies most deeply. A present-day man with eyes of the senses would assume these beings to be the most highly developed physical human beings, whilst he would reckon the northern peoples to be underdeveloped. And there was a further difference that is of special importance.
Where the sun had least influence men developed in such a way that over large areas they all looked more or less similar to one another. For each of these beings that did not descend but was still ethereal belonged to a number of forms below. Up in the North they were group souls, whilst the souls around the Equator were more individual souls, and each human being was much more inside his own body. Thus the inhabitants of those regions that we find at the North Pole today had, in Lemurian times, the characteristics of group soul beings to the greatest imaginable degree. A great number of people looked up to their group soul. And if we look at these group souls as souls we will see that they were much more highly developed than the souls which, in Lemurian times, descended into physical bodies in the equatorial regions. So we can say that the North Pole was populated by people that actually lived in the realms of air in a kind of paradise, and who had not yet descended as far as the earth. What we thus understand to be a necessary consequence of the foregoing you can now compare with what you encounter here and there in anthroposophical literature, namely that those higher beings who were once the teachers of mankind descended from the cold North! We have actually found them, the group souls around the North Pole. If they wanted to become teachers of those people who were inferior souls and who entered more into physical bodies, then they had to descend further, too, and oppose the capacity of the clairvoyance of Lemurian times in their etheric body, or they had to sacrifice themselves and take on the physical human form of the Lemurian people.
If we had taken a journey in Lemurian times from the Equator to the North Pole, we should have found a spiritualising of the earth population. In those times we can distinguish as it were a twofold population: one kind that had still remained spiritual, and whose earthly bodies appeared really to be only an addition to their spiritual being, and another kind that had already descended into matter, into the physical. What would have happened if no change had occurred with earth evolution? The best souls of the polar regions would not have been able to descend at all into physical bodies. And on the other hand the equatorial population would have more or less died out. Having descended too soon into a physical body, they fell into those wicked and immoral practices that led to the downfall of Lemuria. And this resulted in the best section of the population migrating to those regions lying between the Equator and the northern lands. For in Lemurian times we find the members of mankind with the greatest chance of survival living in the countries between the Equator and the North Pole. The human bodies that could become bearers of the most advanced human souls developed best in those regions of ancient Atlantis known today as the temperate zones.
Now all the various stages of evolution leave so-called stragglers behind and there are also stragglers left from these ancient times. What we call the Lemurian population of the earth, that remarkable people of the North with strongly developed etheric bodies and less developed physical bodies, and that other equatorial population with strongly developed physical bodies and less developed etheric bodies, of these people nothing remains, they became extinct. For these bodies were of such a nature that we cannot even find remains; the substance was so soft that there can be no question of there being any remains. Of paramount importance in their Atlantean descendants was that the germ of the ego, the consciousness of Self, the foundations of which were already basically there from ancient Lemurian times on, went through a progressive development on the earth. If mankind had not to a large extent migrated to Atlantis, the active development of the ego would not have come about. For the Lemurian population would have gradually died out, having to succumb to passions, and the best souls of the North would not have descended to earth at all, for they would not have been able to find suitable bodies. The underdeveloped bodies of earlier times would not have provided them with the possibility of developing a strong consciousness of self within the bodily nature. Through the fact that the better sections of the Lemurian population migrated to Atlantis, the human body evolved its form to the extent that it could become the bearer of self-consciousness in a harmonious way. And it was only in the course of time that the human body acquired this form in the regions corresponding to the present temperate zones. For in this period of evolution the human body was still evolving. In Atlantean times the human body was not yet confined to rigid forms, and the highly developed human beings, those of great spiritual significance, were physically small in those days, whereas a person who was not very significant spiritually had in Atlantean times a gigantically developed physical body. And if you had met such a giant in those days, you could have concluded: He is not on a very high level spiritually, for he has rushed into his body with his whole being! Everything that refers to ‘giants’ in legends is absolutely based on a knowledge of the truth. If, therefore, a real memory of these times is preserved in the Germanic myths, we feel it to be absolutely correct, from the spiritual scientific point of view, that the giants are stupid and the dwarfs very clever. This is entirely based on what could be said of the Atlantean population: Where the people are small we find great intelligence, and a race of large men are all stupid! Where human intelligence ran to flesh there was not much mind left. So that physical size expressed the inability to retain the spiritual. In those days the body was still to a certain extent perfectly capable of transformation. Just at the time when Atlantis began to sink there was a great contrast between men who were good as to their qualities of soul, and were a race of little men, and the giant forms who were wicked and in whom everything had turned to flesh. You might even find echoes of these facts in the Bible, if you cared to look for them.
So we see that in Atlantean times the human body could still form itself according to spiritual characteristics. Therefore it could also take on the form which enabled it to mould all the organs, heart, brain, and so on, in such a way that they could become the expression of an actual ego being, a being with self-consciousness. These capacities and characteristics, however, developed on innumerable different levels. There were people whose inner nature was correctly balanced and who were normal, for they had not developed egoism to too great an extent, nor had they developed their ego-feeling solely on a lower level. With them, devotion to the outer world and ego-feeling maintained a balance. Such people were scattered about everywhere. And these were the men that the Atlantean initiates could do most with. On the other hand there were other men who had developed a tremendously strong ego-feeling, much too soon, of course; for human beings had not yet reached the point when they could make of their bodies an instrument for a strongly developed ego-feeling. This made the body hardened in egoism as it were, and it became impossible for it to develop beyond a certain point. There were other people again who had not reached anything like a normal ego-feeling because they were more susceptible to influences from the outer world than they should have been; peoples who had completely surrendered themselves to the outer world. Thus it was the normal human beings that were the best material for the initiates to use for the evolution of the future, and they were also the ones that the great sun initiate, Manu, gathered around him as being most capable of evolving. Those peoples whose ego impulse was developed too strongly, so that it permeated their whole being and made it a manifestation of egohood, these people gradually wandered to the West and became the nation the last survivors of which appeared as the Red Indians of America. Those people whose ego-feeling was too little developed migrated to the East, and the survivors of these people became the subsequent Negro population of Africa. If you look at those things in a really spiritual scientific way you will see evidence of them right into the physical characteristics. If a man brings his whole inner being to expression in his physiognomy and on the surface of his body, then it permeates his external being with the colour of his inner nature as it were. Now the colour of egohood is red or copper or a yellowish brown. And an overpowering feeling of ego arising from offended self-respect can even nowadays turn a man as it were yellow with rage. They are absolutely connected, these two phenomena: the red colour of those peoples that migrated to the West and the yellow colour of the man whose ‘blood boils’ as we say, and whose inner nature is showing itself right into his skin. Those people, however, who had developed their ego being too little, and who were too exposed to the influences of the sun, were like plants: they deposited too many carbonic constituents beneath their skin and became black. This is why the Negroes are black. Thus both east of Atlantis in the black population and west of Atlantis in the red population we find survivors of the kind of people who had not developed their ego-feeling in a normal way. The human beings who had developed normally lent themselves best to progress. Therefore they were the ones chosen to infiltrate the various other regions from the place we know of in Asia.
Now between the little group of people Manu gathered round him and the extreme cases there were obviously innumerable intermediary stages of development. These were also turned to account, of course. To some extent these intermediary levels were extraordinarily suitable for the further evolution of earth civilisation. Thus for example, in the migration from West to East a people remained behind in parts of Europe who had developed their ego-feeling to a marked degree, but who were at the same time not very open to influences from the environment. Think what a peculiar mixture was bound to result in Europe. Those people who migrated to the East and became the black race were very susceptible to external influences, especially that of the sun, just because they had so little ego-feeling. But other peoples migrated into these parts, or at least in this direction, who had a strong ego-feeling. These were peoples who had preferred as it were going East to going West, and they are a milder red than they would have been had they gone West. They gave rise to the race of people who had a strong ego-feeling which nevertheless kept a balance between this and their devotion to the outer world. Those are the peoples of Europe of whom we were able to say in the last public lecture that their strong feeling of personality was from the beginning their essential feature.
Thus we see how man's outer surroundings work on his inner situation, and how the earth, through the different positions in which the areas of its surface are exposed to the sunlight, gave rise to innumerable levels of soul development. All according to the direction in which the souls looked, they found a different possibility for developing themselves in a physical body. It is very important that we realise the connection between the sun's influence on the earth and man's evolution. If some day you follow up these matters with me as far as the details of later times you will see how much becomes comprehensible through the fact that all these possible shades of colouring arose. Thus for example there was that particular part of the population that stayed in Europe whose characteristics were as I have described, and they led an independent existence up till much later times. They did not concern themselves about other people; but those that migrated into the regions already colonised by peoples with various shades of dark skin, and mixed with them, acquired every possible shade of skin colour. Look at the colours to be found in Asia, from the Negroes to the yellow races. Hence you have bodies that are sheaths for every possible level of soul, from the completely passive Negro soul entirely given up to the outer world of physical existence, to the other levels of passive souls in every possible part of Asia.
Various characteristics of the evolution of the Asiatic and African peoples will now be comprehensible to you: they present various combinations of surrender to the environment and the external manifestation of ego-feeling. So fundamentally we have two groups of people representing combinations: those on European soil, forming the root stock of the white population, who had predominantly developed the feeling of personality, but who did not migrate to where the feeling of personality permeated the whole body, but to where the ego-feeling became more inward. Therefore in western Asia and partly in North Africa and the countries of Europe, too, in earlier times, you find a people with a strong inner ego-feeling, but who on the whole were not given to losing themselves in the outer world; their inner character was strong and firm, but it did not set its imprint on the bodily nature. On the other hand there are those peoples in Asia with passive, self-effacing natures in whom just this passivity expresses itself in the highest degree. This makes the people dreamy, and the etheric body penetrates very deeply into the physical body. That is the fundamental difference between the European and the Asiatic peoples.
Manu, with his group of normal men, was wedged in between them. He had to bring the right form of culture to each different shade of the population, and he had to colour this wisdom and teaching to suit the external conditions of the people. Thus we see that the peoples of Asia were given instruction of the kind to satisfy them in their passivity and self-effacement. The Afro-Asiatic peoples do not emphasise the ego. The Negro would to some extent not lay stress on the ego at all. When these people looked up to the divine, they said: I do not find my innermost being within me, I find it in Brahma by flowing out of myself and surrendering myself to the universe!
A teaching such as this would not have been understood in Europe. Europe was situated much too near the North Pole for that, and the countries have kept a certain similarity right down the ages. Let us remind ourselves that it was at the North Pole that we previously found the peoples that did not descend right into physical bodies but whose physical bodies were actually to a certain extent stunted. In fact the European peoples had not as yet quite descended into their physical bodies. They turned their feeling of personality inward. And we would find this more and more the further back we went. Just think how this feeling of personality has been preserved right into later times, when people perhaps no longer saw any reason for it. Someone who belonged to the East would have said: I unite myself with the one, all-embracing Brahma! Thou unitest thyself with Brahma! The other man unites himself with Brahma, they all unite themselves with the one Brahma! With whom did the European unite himself, if he had to acknowledge this as an acceptable idea? He united himself with the one valkyrie, with the one higher soul. And the valkyrie, one might say, was there for each one at the moment of death. It was all an individual, personal matter. And it was only at the border of these two regions that such a thing as the Moses-Christ religion could arise. It could only come right in the middle between East and West. And whilst it could not take root over in the East where the idea of God was that of a unity, but at a previous stage, it could assert itself as the idea of a personal God, which Jehovah is and which Christ is, among those people who already bore the feeling of personality within themselves. Therefore it spread to the West, and we see it meeting with understanding, when envisaged as the idea of a God people could think of as a person. That is why we see it developing in this way almost as a necessity just in this particular belt. The feeling of personality was there, but it was still inward, still spiritual, just as with the ancient Lemurians everything was still spiritual, and the bodily nature was only developed to a small degree. The bodily nature was certainly developed here, but the personal element, which man prized so highly, was inward, and man also wanted to conquer what was external by means of the inner being. Thus it was here that they best understood a God who had the greatest wealth of inner nature permeating his outer nature, namely the Christ. In Europe everything was prepared for the Christ. And because these were regions in which in earlier times men had not descended entirely on to the earthly scene, and therefore some kind of last remnants of spiritual perception existed, there was still something remaining of the vision of spiritual beings, of the old European clairvoyance.
This old European clairvoyance had also led to there being an ancient image of God throughout Europe and also as far as Asia, which present-day scholars, perhaps, will only get to know of if they discover it in the myths of certain isolated districts of Siberia. A remarkable description emerged there long before Christian times, when nothing was known as yet of what was going on in the South, namely what is described in the Old Testament, the Greco-Roman evolution and that of the East. A remarkable idea emerged there which possibly led to the name that has now more or less died out, the ‘Ongod’; and Ongod is a name that is still echoed as it were in the idea of the ‘One God’. The Ongod would be something like the divine we perceive in all spiritual beings. So according to this way of thinking the idea of a personal God was something that was absolutely familiar to the people that lived in this particular belt of the earth. Therefore we can understand that it was just here that this particular outlook bore its chief fruit. For this belt of the earth and its inhabitants had so to speak solved the mystery of the ego. Strictly speaking all evolution since Atlantean times consists either of peoples who maintained the ego-feeling in just the right proportion, or of peoples who developed the ego too much or too little. Nothing special could come of the peoples who had developed the ego in too great or too little a degree. The peoples we have just described as the peoples of the Near East, and also the peoples of certain parts of Africa and especially of Europe, had developed the ego in a unique way.
These were the basic conditions necessary for the coming civilisation that has developed roughly since the beginning of our era. The ego had to reach a certain point of development, as it were, but not overdo it in either direction. And it is our task today to understand this in the right way. For all spiritual science has in a certain respect to appeal to what we call the development of a higher ego from out of the lower. When we look back over the ages we can learn from the fact that certain sections of the earth's inhabitant's did not find it possible to keep pace with earth evolution in the development of their ego, how many mistakes can be made in regard to the development of the higher ego out of the lower. In ancient Atlantis, for instance, there were peoples who dropped out of the earth population so to speak, and they became Red Indians. What would they have said if they had been able to put the facts of their development into words? They would have said: Above all I want to develop my inner being, which I find to be the highest thing within men when I look within myself. And they developed this ego so strongly that it affected even the colour of their skin, and that is how they became red. Their development led them into decadence. Among the people of Atlantis in whom everything still went directly into the body, these were the ones who cultivated what we might call inner brooding upon the ego, and they were so to say convinced that they could find within themselves everything that had to be developed. At the other extreme were those people who said: Oh, the ego is of no significance. The ego must lose itself entirely, it must dissolve altogether, and only listen to what the outside world says! They did not really say this, because they did not reflect in this manner. But those are the peoples who denied their ego to such an extent that they went black, because the external forces coming from the sun to the earth made them so. Only those peoples that were capable of holding the balance with regard to their ego could develop into the future.
Now let us look at our present earth population. There are still people today who say: Oh, the anthroposophists talk of a spiritual world which they seek within themselves. We, however, look back to our good old religious traditions that have been handed down to us externally. We rely on what comes to us from outside and are not very concerned about a higher world! Of course everything is more spiritual today than it was in Atlantis. Nowadays you no longer go black if you rely merely on traditions, and say: Those to whom we have entrusted the welfare of our souls will take care of us, those who do the job, and whose business it is to see that our souls reach Heaven! Nowadays this no longer makes you black. But we do not wish to deny everything, for in parts of Europe people still say today that if you think in this way you will go ‘black’! Everything happens to be more spiritual today! That then is the one type. The others are those who, without taking the trouble to go into all the details of spiritual science — investigations in the Kashic Record, the nature of reincarnation and karma, the principles of man's being, and so on — which require an effort to be understood, are so easy-going that they say: What do I want all that for? I look within myself, that is my higher ego, the divine man within me is there! Such a way of thinking often arises, even in theosophical circles. These people do not want to learn anything, or really develop themselves and be prepared to wait until the ego has taken hold of the various parts of their nature, but run around waiting for the divine man to speak out of them, talking incessantly about the higher ego. Indeed, there are even certain books that tell you: You do not need to learn at all! Just let the God within you speak! Today, when everything is more spiritual, this no longer makes people red. But they succumb to the same fate as did the peoples that were always boasting of their ego.
What we need is an ego that keeps itself mobile, neither losing itself in external physical observation or in external physical experience, nor remaining stationary at one point, but really advancing in spiritual development. That is why the great masters of wisdom and of harmony of the perceptions have not been telling us all the time in the theosophical movement that we should let the divine man within us speak; on the contrary they have given us quite specific impulses for finding the wisdom of the world in all its different aspects. And we are not pupils of the great masters by only wanting to let the God within us speak, or by imagining that each individual carries his own master within himself, but by wanting to get to know the structure of the world in all its aspects. Anthroposophical development is a striving to know all the subtle aspects of cosmic happenings. We attain our higher ego by evolving upwards from stage to stage. Our ego is there outside, manifest in the wonders of the world. For we are born out of the world and want to live our way back into it.
Thus we see that conditions which a man can fall into today are only so to speak modern, more spiritual versions of what we met with in Atlantean times. Even then men came under these three categories: There were those who really wanted to develop their egos, and who were always taking in new things, and by so doing they really became the bearers of post-Atlantean civilisation. Then there were those who only wanted to let the divine speak in them, and their egos made them red. And the third group turned their minds exclusively outwards, and these people became black.
We must learn the right lesson from these phenomena of earth evolution, then in the anthroposophical movement we shall really find the right impulse. What happens has always in a certain way already happened, but it happens again in ever new forms. The anthroposophical movement is something so great and significant because it is carrying further in the various regions of the earth something that developed visibly in Atlantis, but now is more invisible. Thus man is hastening forward from a civilisation of the visible towards a cultural epoch of the invisible and ever more invisible.