In ancient India man did not speak of the ego in our modern way; it was not, for him, a point comprising all his soul experiences. On the contrary, when he spoke of the ego it was to him self-evident that it had little to do with Earth and Earth events. In experiencing himself as an ego, man did not feel that he belonged to the Earth, but, rather, that he was connected with the heaven of the fixed stars. This was what gave him the sense and security of his deepest self. For it was not felt as a human ego. Man was a human being only through the fact that here on Earth he was clothed by a physical body. Through this sheath-for-the-ego he became a citizen of Earth. But the ego was regarded as something foreign to the earthly sphere. And if today we were to coin a name for the way the ego was experienced, we would have to say: man felt not a human but a divine ego.
He might have looked outward to the mountains, to the rocks; he might have looked at everything else on Earth and said of it all: This is, this exists. Yet at the same time he would have felt the following: If there were no other existence than that of Earth's plants, rivers, mountains, and rocks, no human being would have an ego. For what guarantees existence to earthly things and beings could never guarantee it to the ego. They are in different categories.
To repeat: Within himself man felt not a human but divine ego: a drop from the ocean of divinity. And when he wanted to speak about his ego (I say this with the previously-made reservations) he felt it as a creation of the fixed stars; the heaven of the fixed stars was the one sphere sharing its reality. Only because the ego has a similar existence is it able to say “I am.” If it were able to say “I am” merely according to the level of existence of stone or plant or mountain, the ego would have no right to speak so. Only its starlike nature makes it possible for the ego to say “I am.”
Again, the human beings of this primeval epoch saw how the rivers flowed and the trees were driven by the wind. But if we regarded the human ego which dwells in the physical body and has an impulse to move about on the Earth hither and thither — if we regarded this ego as the active force in movement, as wind is the active force in moving trees, or as anything else of Earth is an active force, we would be wrong. The ego is not this kind of outer cause of motion.
In ancient times the teacher in the Mysteries spoke to his pupils somewhat like this: You see how the trees sway, how the river water flows, how the ocean churns. But from neither the moving trees, the flowing rivers, nor the heaving ocean could the ego learn to develop those impulses of motion which human beings display when they carry their bodies over the Earth. This the ego can never learn from any moving earthly thing. This the ego can learn only because it is related to the planets, to starry motion. Only from Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and so forth can the ego learn motion. When the ego of its own volition moves upon the Earth, it achieves something made possible by its relation to the wheeling world of the stars.
Further, it would have seemed incomprehensible to a human being of the ancient Indian epoch if somebody had said "Look how thoughts arise out of your brain!" Let us travel backward in time and imagine ourselves with the soul constitution we once had (for we have all passed through lives in ancient India); then confronted by the present-day soul condition, the one which makes people assume that thoughts arise out of the brain. All that modern people believe would appear as complete nonsense. For the ancient human being knew well that thoughts can never spring from brain substance; that it is the Sun which calls forth thoughts, and the Moon which stills them. It was to the reciprocal action of the Sun and the Moon that people of old ascribed their life of thought.
Thus in the first post-Atlantean epoch, the ancient Indian time, the divine ego was seen as belonging to the heaven of the fixed stars, to the planetary movements, to the reciprocal action of Sun and Moon; and what came to it from the Earth as transient, the essence of the ego being cosmic-divine.