Sunday, December 7, 2014
Genesis: Secrets of Creation. Lecture 3: The Seven Days of Creation
Rudolf Steiner, Munich, August 19, 1910:
Last time we sketched out a mental picture of the moment indicated by those meaningful words of the Bible: And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. They allude to an event which we can see as the recapitulation at a higher level of an earlier stage of evolution. I must keep on using the illustration of the man who on awakening calls up in his mind a certain content; it is in some such way that what had slowly and gradually been built up during the course of the Saturn, Sun and Moon evolutions springs to life again from the soul of the Elohim in a new form, a modified form. In fact all that is narrated in the Bible of the six or seven “days” of creation is a reawakening of previous conditions, not in the same but in a new form.
The next question which we have to ask ourselves is this — what kind of reality are we to attribute to the account of what happened in the course of these six or seven “days?” It will be clearer if we put the question in this way. Could an ordinary eye, in fact could any organs of sense such as we have today have followed what we are told took place during the six days of creation? No, they could not. For the events there described really took place in the sphere of elementary existence, so that a certain degree of clairvoyant knowledge, clairvoyant perception, would have been needed for their observation. The truth is that the Bible tells us of the origin of the sensible out of the super-sensible, and that the events with which it opens are super-sensible events, even if they are only one stage higher than the ordinary physical events which proceeded from them and are familiar to us. In all our descriptions of the six days' work of creation we are in the domain of clairvoyant perception. What had existed at an earlier time now came forth in etheric, in elementary form. We must get a firm grasp of that, otherwise we shall be all at sea over the true meaning of the impressive words of Genesis. Thus we must expect to see all that had gradually evolved during the Saturn, Sun and Moon evolutions emerging in a new form.
Let us begin by asking ourselves what were the special characteristics of each of these three planetary forms? On Saturn everything was in a kind of mineral condition — you can read about it in my Occult Science. What was there as the first rudiment of man, which really constituted the whole substance of Saturn, was in a kind of mineral form. But in saying this we must not think of the mineral of today, for Saturn had nothing in it either of liquid or of solid; Saturn was nothing but interweaving warmth. But the laws which prevailed in this planet of warmth, and which brought about and organised the complicated differentiations within it, were the very same laws which obtain today in the solid mineral kingdom. So that when we say that both Saturn and man himself were in a “mineral” condition we must remember that it was not the mineral of today, but a state of inweaving warmth governed by mineral laws.
Then comes the Sun condition of the planet. Here we must never forget that there was as yet no separation of the part which later became the earth. What today has become sun and earth was then a common body, a single cosmic body. In contrast to the earlier Saturn, a denser, gaseous element developed in the Sun, so that in addition to the interweaving warmth we have a transfluent gaseous or airy element, setting hither and thither in accordance with its own laws. But at the same time we have a new formation in the ascending mode, a kind of rarefaction of warmth towards the luminous, a radiation of light into space. Our planetary evolution, as I have called it, advanced during the Sun period to the stage of the plant. Again we must not imagine that there were plants on the old Sun in their present form; it is only that the same laws were at work there in the elements of warmth and air as rule in the plant kingdom today, those laws which determine that the root shall grow downward and the blossom upward. Obviously there could be no solid plants; one must think of the forces which send blossoms up and roots down, weaving in an airy structure, so that the Sun flashes forth blossoms of light in an upward direction. Imagine a gaseous sphere, and within it weaving and sprouting light, living light, which causes the gaseous vapour to shoot and sparkle in radiant blossoms, while at the same time below there is an effort to check these luminous outbursts, an effort to make the Sun cohere round its centre. Then you have the inweaving of light, warmth and air in the ancient Sun evolution. The laws of the mineral kingdom are repeated and the laws of the plant world are added, and so much of man as is already there has itself only reached a plantlike condition.
Where today should we find anything in the least comparable to that plantlike weaving in the air-warmth-light sphere of the Sun? With the senses of today we should search the whole of cosmic space in vain. At a certain period of the Sun evolution these conditions did obtain, even physically — that is to say, physically to the density of air. Today they cannot exist physically at all. The form of activity which at that time actually existed in the physical mode can only be found today by directing a faculty of clairvoyant perception towards that region of the super-sensible world where are the spiritual Beings who lie behind our external physical plants, those Beings whom we have learnt to know as the group-souls of the plants. Today they can only be found by clairvoyant consciousness in spiritual realms. The group-souls of the plants do not subsist in individual plants, such as we see growing out of the soil, but there is one group-soul for each species of plant, such as the rose, the violet, the oak, and so on. For the poverty-stricken, abstract thinking of today, plant species are just abstractions, notions. They were already so in the Middle Ages; and it was because at that time men no longer knew anything of what weaves and activates in the spiritual as the basis of the physical, that there arose the well-known conflict between realism and nominalism — the dispute as to whether species were merely names, or whether they were real spiritual entities. For clairvoyant consciousness there is no sense whatever in this dispute, for when it directs its attention towards the plant-covering of our earth, it pierces through the outer forms to the spirit region where the group-souls of the plants actually live as real Beings. And these group-souls are one and the same reality as what we call species. At the time when the air, warmth and light sphere of the Sun was in its full splendour, when light, playing in the surface of the airy globe, threw off the sparkling blossoms of plant existence, these physically gaseous forms were actually the same as the plant species which can still be found today, though only in spiritual realms. Let us hold firmly in mind, then, that the plant “species” which cover our earth today with foliage and blossom, with trees and shrubs, pervaded the Sun actually as group-souls or species.
So far as man had evolved at that time, he too was to be found in a plantlike condition. He was unable to awaken mental images within himself, unable to awaken in consciousness what went on around him, any more than the plants today can do so. Man was himself living a plant existence, and his bodily form was among those light forms in continuous play in the gaseous globe. The emergence in the cosmos of even the most primitive forms of consciousness involves very special concomitant conditions. So long as our terrestrial substance was still united with the solar substance, so long as the sunlight did not fall upon the terrestrial globe from without, nothing of what we term consciousness could develop in it; nor could an astral body, which is the basis of consciousness, penetrate the physical and etheric bodies. For consciousness to arise, a separation or fission had to take place, something had to be split off from the Sun. And that happened during the third stage of our earth's evolution, during the Moon epoch. After the Sun condition came to an end, and had passed through a kind of cosmic night, the whole formation appeared again; but now it had become sufficiently mature to manifest as a duality, sufficiently mature for all the Sun elements in it to withdraw into a separate cosmic body, leaving behind the Moon, upon which the elementary conditions of only water, air and warmth were to be found. The Moon was the earth of that time, and it was only because the beings living upon it could receive the forces of the sun from without that they could take into themselves astral bodies and so develop consciousness, reflect in inner experience what went on around them. An animal nature, an inwardly living animal nature, a nature capable of consciousness, is dependent for its existence upon separation between sun and earth elements. The animal nature first appeared during the Moon evolution, and man himself — the body of man — was then developed to the animal stage. You will find this more closely described in my Occult Science. Thus we see that the three epochs which precede that of our own earth, and condition it, are linked together by certain laws. And on the Moon a fluid element is added to the gaseous — a watery element on the one hand, and an element of sound on the other, such as I described yesterday when speaking of the rarefaction of light. That is a very summary account of the course of evolution.
Now what had taken place during these three epochs emerged again in the recollection of the Elohim — at first, as I said yesterday, in a state of confusion which is described in the Bible by the words tohu wabohu. The stream of forces which moved from the centre to the periphery and from the periphery back again to the centre at first embraced the interactivity of all three elementary conditions — air, warmth and water. These three elements were now undifferentiated, though previously the gaseous and the warmth elements on the Sun, and the three forms, warmth, gas and water, on the Moon, had been distinct from one another. Now, during the tohu wabohu, they were all in motley confusion, gushing into and out of one another, so that in the early stages of earth development it was impossible to distinguish between what was watery, what was gaseous, what was warmth. They were all mixed up.
The first thing which then happened was that the element of light broke into all this; and out of the psychic or spiritual activity which I have described as cosmic musing there then came to pass a separation of gaseous from fluid. I will ask you to hold very clearly in your minds this moment which followed the coming into being of light. In dry prose, what happened was this: after the light had penetrated into the tohu wabohu, the Elohim caused what had once before in the past been the gaseous element to separate from what in the same way had been the watery element, so that it was again possible to differentiate between the gaseous and the watery. Thus in the chaotic mass compounded of the three elementary states, a separation came about, but in such a way that elements of two different natures emerged — one of the nature of air, with a tendency to expand in all directions, the other of the nature of water, with the tendency to cohere. But the two were not yet in a condition comparable to the air or water of today. The “water” was very much denser — we shall presently see why this was so. On the other hand, to get an idea of the constitution of “air” at that time, we cannot do better than look up from the earth to where, in the region of air, the water turns to vaporous formations, and has the tendency to rise into clouds, only to fall again later as rain. Thus the one element was an ascending, the other a descending one. There was a quality of water in both of them, but the one kind of water had the tendency to become vaporous, to rise upward as cloud, and the other the tendency to pour downward and assume a level surface. Of course, that is only a comparison, for what I have been describing took place in the elementary world
Through their cosmic musing the Elohim brought it about that a separation took place in the tohu wabohu between two elementary conditions. The one had the tendency to press upward, to become vapour; that is, the watery transforming itself to the gaseous; the other had the tendency to discharge itself downward; that is, the watery condensing and cohering. That is the course of events which is expressed in modern languages in words somewhat like this: “The Gods made a something between the waters above and the waters below.” I have just described to you what the Elohim did. Within the “waters” they brought it about that one element had the tendency to spread outwards, to expand, the other to contract towards a centre. The something between is nothing tangible, it is just a way of saying that a separation has been brought about between the two forms of energy which I have just described. You could also put it this way, that the Elohim so acted on the waters that on the one side they took an upward direction, showed a tendency to cloud-formation, a tendency to stream out into space; on the other side they showed a tendency to accumulate upon the surface of the earth. The “partition” was really more like a notional one, and the word in Genesis which expresses this process of separation must be so understood. You know that the Vulgate uses the word “firmament” for this. The Hebrew word is rakia. [ ] This word means something which should not be interpreted in a phenomenal sense — it simply means the separation of two directions of force.
With that we have reached what is described in Genesis as the second “day”; and if we want to put it into our own words, we should have to say, “within the vortex of elementary states the Elohim first separated the airy from the fluid nature.” That is a quite exact rendering of what is meant; the Elohim separated what tends to become air, which of course includes watery vapour, from what tends to contract and become denser. That is the second “day” of creation.
We go on to the next “day”! What happens now? What has been sent outwards, what radiates out and tends to form clouds, has reached a stage which in a certain way is a recapitulation of an earlier condition; it is a repetition in a denser form of what took place on the Sun. That which has a tendency to contract, which in a way repeats the condensation to water on the Moon, is now further differentiated, and this further separation constitutes what comes to pass on the third “day” of creation. We may say that on the second “day” the Elohim separated the airy from the watery. In the same way on the third “day” they separate, within the watery element, what we today know as water, from something which had not been there before, something which was a further densification — the solid element. It is only now that the solid comes into existence. During the Moon evolution this solid, earth element was not in existence. Now it is precipitated out of the watery element. Thus on the third “day” of creation we have a process of condensation, and we have to say that, as the Elohim on the second “day” separated out the airy element from the watery, so now on the third “day” within what was in effect the Moon-substance, they separate off a new watery element from the earth element, which now emerges as something completely new. Everything which I have hitherto described had already existed before, though in another form. The first thing which is entirely new is the earth element, the solid, which appears now on the third “day.” This earth element, separated out from the water, this is the new arrival. But this also makes it possible for what was already there to assume a new form.
What is it which now first begins to form? It is something which had already taken shape on the Sun, it is what we have described as the sprouting plant nature in the tenuous airy element of the Sun — which had then reappeared on the Moon in the watery element — though of course there were still no plants in the sense of today. And it is only on the third “day” that there is a recapitulation of this in the earth element. What is first repeated in the earth element as the plant nature is wonderfully described in the Bible. I will deal later with the question of how we should understand the “day” of creation; for the moment I am concerned with the irruption of light and of air from without, of the separation of water from solid. The solid now brings forth a recapitulation of the plant nature out of itself. That is very clearly described in the Bible, when it says that after the Elohim had separated the earth from the water, the plant life springs forth from the earth. Thus the sprouting of plant life on the third “day” of creation is a recapitulation in the solid element of what had already existed during the Sun evolution; it is as it were a cosmic memory. In the cosmic musing of the Elohim there arose the plant life which had been present on the Sun in gaseous form, but which emerges now in the solid state.
Everything repeats itself in a new form. The plant life is still in a state which is not individualised as on our earth today. I have expressly called attention to the fact that separate plants such as we see around us in the sense-world today were not to be found on the Sun, nor on the Moon, nor even on the earth at the moment when the plant nature emerges again in the earth element. What were there were the group-souls of the plants, what we today call the species, which to clairvoyant consciousness were no abstractions, but something actually present in the spirit realm. At that time there was a re-emergence in a super-sensible realm of what we call plant species. And that is what the Bible says. It is strange how little Biblical commentators are able to make of the words And the earth brought forth grass and herb yielding seed after his kind. One ought to say, instead ofafter his kind, “in the mode of species.” What it means is that the plant nature was there in the form of group-souls, in the form of species; there were no individual plants such as there are today. You will not understand the description of the springing-up of plant life on the third “day” of creation unless you think of the group-soul nature. You must clearly understand that no plants, as we understand the term today, sprang up at that time, but that out of a psychic activity, out of a cosmic, musing activity, sprouted species, in other words the group-souls of the plant kingdom.
Thus, when on the third “day” of creation we are told that the Elohim separated out from the fluid the solid, the fourth elementary condition, we find that in this “solid” state — which of course in its original elementary form would not yet have been visible to an external eye, but only to clairvoyant sight — there was a reappearance of the forms of the plant species.
This was not yet possible as regards the animal nature. We have already described how the animal nature made its first appearance during the Moon evolution, after a duality had come into being, after the sun had begun to operate from without. Hence a repetition of this event (the separation of the moon) had to take place before evolution could advance from the plant to the animal nature. Therefore after the third “day” it is pointed out how in the environment of the earth the sun, moon and stars now come into activity; how there begins to take effect something which radiates from without, which sends in its forces from without. Whereas hitherto we have seen the effect of a sprouting activity within the planet itself, now, in addition to this, we see something which comes from the heavenly spaces, radiating inwards. In other words, in addition to the forces of the earth itself, which could only recapitulate what it had produced as a unitary body at an earlier stage, the Elohim in their cosmic musing brought into action the forces which streamed down upon the planet from outer space. Cosmic existence was added to earthly existence. To begin with, let us see nothing but this in what is described as taking place on the fourth “day.” What was the result of this irradiation from without? It enabled processes to be recapitulated — though in a different form — which were already to be found in the Moon evolution. During the Moon evolution there had developed as much of an animal nature as could live in the elements of air and water. It was only now that this could reappear. Therefore Genesis tells us, in wonderful accord with the facts, how on the fifth “day” of creation the teeming multitude in air and water comes into existence. It describes a recapitulation of the Moon epoch, now in a new form, at a higher level, in the earth element.
My dear friends, at the contemplation of such things this ancient record fills us with awe; it is wholly in the spirit of our anthroposophical outlook that we are able to feel the deepest reverence for it. What is experienced by clairvoyant consciousness is recorded in this document in impressive words, in words full of power; we find there again what we already know — that after the irradiation from without had taken place, a recapitulation became possible of what had existed in the airy and the watery elements of the Moon evolution. In the light of such a soul-stirring discovery how can we attach any importance to intellectual criticisms of these things? What nonsense it makes of the argument that this document was written in primitive times, when human knowledge was still at a very childish level! A fine “childish level,” when we rediscover in it the highest knowledge to which we can raise ourselves! Must we not ascribe to those who have handed down to us this ancient record the same spirituality which alone today enables us to rise to this revelation? Does not this document, bequeathed to us by those ancient seers, bear witness for them? The content of this record itself testifies that its writers were inspired. Truly we need no historical proof, the words furnish their own proof.
When we understand the matter in this way we realise that it was only after the fifth “day” of creation that anything new could happen. For all the necessary recapitulation had now taken place. Now the earth itself, which had emerged as a new element, could be populated with animal life, and with whatever might develop as new formation. Hence we find described in impressive detail how creatures appeared on the sixth “day” whose existence was bound up with the new element of earth. Up to the fifth “day” we have a recapitulation at a higher stage in a new form of what had gone before, but on the sixth “day” the earth-nature comes into its own for the first time, and something is added which has only been made possible by the earth conditions.
I have now given you an outline of the six “days” of creation. I have shown you how those who shrouded their deep wisdom in this narrative must have been fully conscious of what was emerging as new. Further, they must have been fully aware that it was only within this earth element that what constituted the very core of man's being could enter in. We know that all that man went through during the Saturn, Sun and Moon evolutions amounted to preparatory stages for the real human incarnation. We know that during the Saturn period the first rudiments of a physical body had been laid down in man; during the Sun evolution the rudiments of an etheric or life body were added; during the Moon evolution the rudiments of an astral body. What was recapitulated up to the end of the fifth day contained an element of astrality. Everything which has being has astrality. To infuse the ego, the fourth member of human nature, into a being in this whole evolutionary complex was not possible until the conditions for the earth had been fully created. So the Elohim prepared the earth by recapitulating the earlier stages at a higher level throughout the five “days” of creation. It was only then, only because the recapitulation had taken a new form, that they had at their disposal a fit vessel, a vessel into which they could impress the human form; and that was the consummation of the whole of evolution.
Had a mere repetition taken place, evolution as a whole would only have been able to advance to the animal, to the astral stage. But because all the time, from the beginning and throughout the periods of recapitulation, something was being infused into evolution which finally revealed itself as earth, at last there came something into which the Elohim could pour all that was in them. I have already described how it lived in them — it was just as if there were seven men in a group, each one of whom has learnt something different, each of whom has a different capacity, but all of whom are working towards a common end. They all wish to make one and the same thing. Each has to contribute what best he can. Thereby a work in common arises. No single individual has the skill to produce this object alone, but together they are able to achieve it. We could say that their product bears the impress of the joint idea they had formed of their work. We must bear in mind throughout this special characteristic of the seven Elohim, that they all worked together in order to bring about at last their crowning achievement — in order at last to pour human form into what had been brought about by a recapitulation of earlier conditions, because the whole bore the stamp of something new.
Hence suddenly we begin to hear quite a different language in the Genesis account. Earlier it says “the Elohim created,” or “the Elohim spoke.” There we have the feeling that we are dealing with something already determined. Now, when the consummation of earth existence is about to be achieved, we read: Let us make man. That sounds as if the Seven were taking counsel together, as one does when one is trying to bring to fulfilment a work in common. And so, in what emerges as the final consummation of the work of evolution, we have to see a product of the combined effort of all the Elohim; we have to see that they all contribute, each as he is able, to this their work in common, and that at length the human etheric form appears as an expression of the capacity and skill acquired by the Elohim during the Saturn, Sun and Moon evolutions.
In saying this we have drawn attention to something of immense importance. We have touched on the question of what we may call human worth. In many epochs the impression made upon religious minds by certain words brought their consciousness far nearer to the truth than is the case today. It was so in the case of the Hebrew seer. When he looked up to the seven Elohim, what he experienced obliged him to say to himself, in all humility and reverence, that man must be something mighty in the world, if the differing activities of seven Beings had to combine in order to bring him into existence. The human form on earth is a goal of the Gods! I ask you to feel the immense significance of this statement, and you will say to yourselves that each one of us has a tremendous responsibility for the human form, has an obligation to make it as perfect as possible. Perfection became a possibility from the moment when the Elohim resolved to bend all their united capacities towards the achievement of the one goal. This divine heritage has been entrusted to man, in order that he may develop it ever higher and higher into far distant times. Our study of cosmic evolution in relation to the tremendous opening words of the Bible must lead us in all humility, but also in strength, to a consciousness of this goal to be achieved. It is our origin that these words unveil. At the same time they point us to our goal, our highest ideal. We feel ourselves to be of divine origin; but we feel too what I tried to show in my Rosicrucian Drama, at the point where the initiate passes a certain stage, and feels himself in the resounding “O Man, experience thyself!” To be sure, he feels his human weakness, but he also feels his divine goal. He is no longer lost, no longer inwardly shrivelled, but on the contrary he feels uplifted; in the moment of experiencing his true Self he feels that he is beingexperienced. When he is able to experience himself in that other Self, something streams through him which is akin to his soul, because it is his own divine destination.