Theosophy and Rosicrucianism. Lecture 11 of 14
Rudolf Steiner, June 26, 1907:
Yesterday, in the description of the development of the various cycles of earthly development, we reached a point which made us realize how the three celestial bodies — the Sun, the Moon, and the Earth — gradually separated from one another. We began by considering this separation, and stopped at the point where the Moon separated itself from the Earth, but we also tried to reach this same point by setting out from the present time and going back to the Atlantean epoch. Let us now consider the condition of the Earth at the time of Atlantis. Long, long epochs of time must be borne in mind, taking up millions of years, so that the great changes which took place, not only in the universe but also upon the Earth, need no longer surprise us.
Let us consider once more the Earth, after its separation from the Moon. It was still enveloped by a volume of air — which presented, however, quite a different aspect from the present air. You must not think that this air inwardly resembled a glowing stove — although its temperature was far higher than is the case now. At that time many substances which are now solid existed within the Earth in a liquid state. An air thickly permeated with gases of the most varied substances enveloped the Earth, an atmosphere which we might designate as fire-air, a repetition of the former Moon-condition.
When the Earth became independent after its separation from the present Moon, it was surrounded by a strange atmosphere which may be designated as fire-air. Through the fact that the Earth freed itself from the atmosphere which went away with the Moon, the beings who lived upon the Earth were able to attain certain higher stages of development. Within the atmosphere of the Earth the most advanced animal-men had reached a higher stage than the one which they had attained upon the Moon, and these were the beings who later developed into men. A great number of these animal-men remained behind upon the Moon-stage. As a result, they not only remained behind, but owing to the entirely new conditions which now arose, they sank half a degree below the level which they had previously attained (animal-men could live only upon the Moon) and thus they became animals. Animals did not as yet exist upon the Moon. We therefore have two kingdoms: human beings — and the kingdom of animal-men, beings who had remained behind and had gradually sunk to the level of animals.
The same applies to the plant-animals. A certain number of these had developed to a higher stage, to that of animals; others had remained behind and changed into plants.
The kingdom of plant-minerals also followed this line of development: some became heavy minerals, while others ascended in their development to the level of plants.
Not everything arose in accordance with one standard of measure, for the animals which we know today arose, for instance, partly through the descending development of men-animals and partly through the ascending development of plant-animals. In the vegetable kingdom also we have side by side the plant-minerals in an ascending course of development and the plant-animals in a descending course. The plants now chiefly constituting the pleasant plant-carpet of our Earth arose through the ascending development of the Moon's plant-minerals; this is, for instance, the case with the violet. On the other hand, everything that gives us a decaying impression is in a descending development — whereas our green leafy plants will in future attain to higher stages.
Our minerals developed entirely upon the Earth; there were no minerals upon the Moon such as exist today. The mineral kingdom is the former plant-mineral kingdom, which sank down to a lower stage and which was embedded into the Earth as a firm crust. When the Earth cast off the Moon, the substances which remained behind and which later on became minerals, solid metals, etc., were still an altogether liquid mass. The substances which at that time had already reached a solid state were hurled out into the cosmic spaces, because, had it kept these substances, the Earth could not have developed further. Then the first metals which reached a solid state were added. Sometimes they had most peculiar forms! What you now encounter in the mountains as granite or gneiss at that time revealed quite clearly that it had arisen through the descending development of vegetable beings, of plants which had become stones.
You may gather from this that upon the Sun and upon the Moon the mineral kingdom was a vegetable kingdom. The vegetable kingdom has not developed out of the mineral kingdom, but minerals have developed out of the vegetable kingdom! The coal which is now dug out of the Earth is nothing but a complex of petrified plants — plants which decayed and became stones, so that now they can be dug out of the Earth as petrified plants. If you were to go back still further, you would see that once even the hardest stones were plants, and that they have arisen out of plants through the descending development of plants to the mineral kingdom.
A clairvoyant sees this in the following way: If you investigate gneiss, the mineralogist will tell you that it consists of feldspar, hornblend, and mica — but he cannot go further. The clairvoyant says: Feldspar in gneiss appears to spiritual vision quite clearly as the petrified stalk and the green leaves of plants, the petrification of those parts which built them up; whereas the mica foundation is related to that part of the plants which still develops today as the plants' sepals and corollae. When a modern occultist observes a piece of gneiss he will say: This is a petrified plant, and even as plants now possess leaves and flowers, etc., so the mica foundation of gneiss has developed out of the sepals and petals of ancient epochs.
Thus it can be explained how every mineral developed out of former plants. For the substances which came over from the ancient Moon were plants, which then became densified in the liquid mass of the Earth. Even as one can see the water in a receptacle freezing into solid ice, so it is possible to observe in the early stages of the Earth's development the gradual forming of solid masses. Thus the solid crust of the Earth slowly developed out of the liquid Earth. The further we proceed, the higher and purer become the beings who live upon the Earth, and those that were unable to ascend became petrified. It was the same both with animals and men. Man reached the stage of being able to transform his body in a still higher measure.
The Moon-men floated and swam about in a primordial ocean; they were predisposed to this swimming movement. This may sound strange to modern men; nevertheless it is true; and let it be said without reserve, that I do not wish to mitigate some of these apparently grotesque descriptions — for generally people laugh at truths when they are revealed for the first time.
The human being who swam about in this primordial ocean had as yet no eyes endowed with sight such as we have today: man, indeed, received the foundation of sight upon Saturn, but in this primordial ocean he did not need to see; he had to orientate himself in other ways. The ocean contained all the food which he required for his life and also animals, some benevolently disposed towards him and some not. At that time man still possessed an organ which now exists in the head; it is the size of a cherry pit and is called the pineal gland (in reality it is not a gland). Once upon a time this organ was of immense size; it enabled man to orientate himself in the ocean and it protruded from his head like a lantern. Man moved about by using this lantern-like organ in front; it was a sensitive organ, not an organ of sight. He used it when swimming about. Later on he no longer needed it and so it shriveled.
At that time it was not possible to speak of an Ego foundation. In regard to everything which man did, he was still under the guidance of higher spiritual powers: we may compare him with the animals of today. From a spiritual-scientific aspect, we now look upon animals by saying that man differs from the animal through the fact that he has an individual soul; every man has his own soul, his individual Ego.
This is not the case with animals, for whole groups of animals have one soul in common. For instance, all the animals pertaining to the lion species have one soul, which lives in the astral world. Similarly all the animals of tiger-nature have a soul in common. In the case of animals we therefore speak of group souls. All the horses together have one group soul; these horses belong together. Even as the single fingers belong to the hand, so the animals belong to their group soul. Consequently we cannot speak of individual responsibility in the case of animals. Only of an individual soul can we say that it is either good or evil.
At that time, the human beings possessed a kind of group-soul embedded in the bosom of the Godhead. We must however realize that that which now lives in us as our Ego already existed in those early epochs, but it did not live within the human body.
Man's origin must be sought in two currents: that which came over from the Moon and continued to develop constituted the animal-man who lived upon the Moon; but that which now lives in us as our individual soul existed in those times in the higher realm, in the care of the Godhead — only man's body lived below in the primordial ocean. Later on body and soul united; the soul descended and spititualized the body, so that man became an individual soul.
Imagine a receptacle containing water: in it are many many drops of water, but it is impossible to distinguish them. If you were to take many hundreds of small sponges, dipping them into the water, the drops first contained in the volume of water would be individualized. Similarly imagine your spirituality soaring above the primordial ocean, and compare your soul reposing in the bosom of the Godhead with the drops of water: the bodies absorb the souls, even as the small sponges absorb the drops of water; the souls thus became independent, in the same way in which the water becomes individualized into drops through the sponges. Below we have the primordial ocean with the floating-swimming bodies, and above there are the souls. We cannot describe this better than by saying: “And the Spirit of God moved (literally: brooded) over the face of the waters,” which means that He elaborated that which was below until it was able to take in the soul-drops.
The bodies themselves had to soar and float, and for this purpose the beings within them needed a special organ. At that time man had no lungs, but a kind of air-bladder; this kept him afloat in the ocean.
The fish, which have remained behind upon that stage, have even today an air-bladder and no lungs. The lungs developed little by little, as the air freed itself from the moisture and man could raise himself above the water, so that he began to breathe in air. A long process, lasting millions of years, finally enabled man to breathe in the air through his lungs. This gave rise to the physical form capable of absorbing the soul. The more man became a being who breathed through lungs, the more he became capable of taking in the soul. You cannot express this better than with the words: “And God breathed His own breath into man's nostrils and he became an individual soul.”
At the same time this enabled man to develop something which he did not possess before: he became capable of forming red blood. Before that time all human beings had a constitution which gave them the same temperature as their environment; if they were surrounded by a higher temperature, they adapted to it. Red blood did not exist at that time, and the animals above the stage of amphibians are human bodies which have remained behind at a much later stage of development. After the epoch in which man began to develop red blood, the animals also began to develop into warm-blooded beings.
Even as a plant cannot develop out of a stone, but stones developed out of plants, so the animal developed out of man.
Every being upon a lower stage developed out of beings who once stood upon higher stages; this is the theory of evolution.
Man first had to transform himself into a being with red blood, and then he could leave behind the animals. You may literally see in animals the stages left behind in man's development. In every animal man perceives more or less a piece of himself which he has left behind. Paracelsus expressed this so wonderfully in the words: When we look about in the world we see, as it were, the letters of an alphabet; in the human being alone these letters unite and form a word. Consequently the meaning of that which lies spread out in man's environment is to be seen in man himself.
You must then bear in mind the following: An apparently insignificant process (but in the light of spiritual science it is an extraordinarily important process) took place at that time: it already began in the early stages of the Earth's separation from the Moon, when the Earth was still connected with the Moon, and it consisted in a certain cooperation between Mars and the Earth. During the whole first half of the Earth's development, the forces of Mars streamed into the Earth, so that this first half is actually designated as the Mars condition of the Earth. Iron is connected with this passage through Mars, and iron then began to play an entirely new role in the earthly process of evolution.
Iron plays a far more superficial part in plants, but you can see how things are connected: cosmically, the Earth passed through Mars, and Mars gave it iron; iron was then stimulated to exercise the functions which it now possesses, and iron appeared in the blood. The aggressive side of human nature, that which turns man into a warrior here on Earth, is connected with the iron in the blood. The Greek myth knew this, for it designated Mars as the God of War.
The human body thus became capable of taking in the Ego; for without red, warm blood a body cannot be the bearer of an Ego. This is very important. Pulmonary breathing is the first condition for the formation of warm, red blood. The required processes then arose upon the Earth and became embodied with the blood. Little by little, man developed so as to become a red-blooded being breathing through lungs, and then he left behind the other creatures, the lower warm-blooded animals.
In occultism, animals are not only differentiated in the ordinary way, but another differentiation is pointed out. We distinguish the “inwardly sounding animals” — those which can express their own pain and pleasure in sounds — from the “non-sounding animals”. If you descend to the lower animals, you may still hear sounds, but these are purely external, produced by rubbing together certain parts of the body, or by climatic influences; these are sounds produced by external causes. Only the animals which branched off when man had developed into a warm-blooded being were able to express pain or pleasure through sounds coming from within.
This was the time when man's larynx was transformed into an organ of sound. The fact that outside the liquid Earth substance became crust produced an inner process in the human being: parallel with the external process of hardening, an osseous and cartilaginous skeleton developed within the human being out of the soft parts of his body. Beings with a skeleton did not exist before that time.
The minerals outside are the counterpart of the bones. The Earth perpetuated this epoch in the masses of rock and man in his skeleton. Man then gradually became an upright walking being, thus changing over from his former horizontal position into a vertical one. He turned 'round, so that his front extremities became organs of work, and his other extremities were used for walking. There is a connection in all this, for no being without a sound-producing larynx and an upright walk can be an Ego-being.
Animals were predisposed for this, but they degenerated. Consequently they could not transform themselves into beings endowed with speech, for speech is connected with a larynx located in a body having an upright position. We may gather this through a primitive fact. Many dogs are undoubtedly cleverer than parrots, yet a parrot learns more, because its larynx is in a more vertical position. Parrots and starlings learn to speak a little, because their larynx is located vertically.
This shows you that the Earth and man advance to ever new stages of development. The atmosphere also changed: a condition developed in which the Earth was surrounded by a misty, foggy air. This took place at the time when the Lemurians saw their continent crumbling away, so that they wandered out to Atlantis and became Atlanteans.
During this phase of evolution in which man acquired the first elements of speech — which were, to be sure, sounds expressing mere feelings — the soul emerged more and more. Essentially speaking, the Atlantean had a dull kind of clairvoyance. As he came out of the sub-earthly ocean, his eyes developed to the extent of enabling him to participate in the light raying out from the Sun through the masses of mist. Physically his power of sight and perception developed more and more, but he gradually lost his old clairvoyance. The most advanced race of the Atlanteans developed in a certain region of the Earth's surface during the last third of the Atlantean era, which was a significant close of a phase of evolution.
In view of the existing conditions, the Atlanteans who traveled more to the west became inwardly neutral natures, cold and indifferent, and developed later on into the copper-colored population of America. Others who traveled further south became the black Negro population, and those who turned to the east became later on the yellow Malayan population. These populations concentrated themselves in the most unfavorable places, which prohibited a further development. But the peoples who lived in a region now occupied by Ireland, and further west, in a country now covered by the ocean, reached the highest stage of development. The mixtures of hot and cold streams which existed there permitted the human body to develop in the best and speediest manner. A pronounced Ego-feeling, a first foundation of such a feeling, developed from the still magical will power of those epochs. It was then that man first learned to say “I”. The human beings then also learned the first foundations of counting and of arithmetic, and they developed the first capacity of forming judgments and of combining thoughts.
There were always beings among them who had progressed further, who were the leaders of humanity, and their relationship to man was that of beings who belonged to a higher realm. These beings became the teachers and guides of men, and it was they who induced them to migrate towards the East. From the site which lay in the neighborhood of present-day Ireland certain peoples had already migrated to the East, settling as far as Asia. Now the most highly developed masses of peoples began to migrate to the East, and everywhere along their journey they formed colonies; the most powerful of these colonies, with the most highly developed culture, existed in the neighborhood of the present Gobi Desert. Later on, a certain number of peoples travelled from there to many parts of the world: one group went to the present India, where they encountered an indigenous yellow-brown race, with whom they became partly united.
It was after the Atlantean flood that this colony travelled south and founded the first culture of the post-Atlantean epoch, the first culture of our own age. The most advanced teachers who went with this colony, the first great teachers of ancient India, are called the ancient Indian Rishis. The Hindus of today are the descendants of that ancient population — but if we wish to discover traces of this culture we must go far back into times which are not known to history; the Vedas, for example, already belong to a later epoch, for nothing was recorded in those early days.
The ancient Hindu nation represents the first cultural group after the Atlantean age, and consequently they resembled the Atlanteans most of all. The Atlantean was a kind of dreamer: his consciousness was dull; he did not have any power of judgment and self-consciousness, and like a dreamer he wandered about half consciously. The ancient Hindus were the first to overcome this condition, but they were still partly rooted in it. The ancient Hindu longed to experience the spirit realm of past times and yearned for the clairvoyance which the Atlanteans still possessed. In ancient India the early Yoga training still consisted of a kind of dulling of human consciousness, which transferred the human being back to the times when he could still perceive spiritual beings in his environment. The Hindu longed for this clairvoyance of ancient Atlantis, and in the Yoga training the Rishis taught him the methods of producing clairvoyance, though these methods followed another line of development.
The Atlantean did not possess any power of judgment, whereas in India the power of judgment had already awakened; but men loved, so to speak, that which they had already overcome, and they knew how to conjure it up again, by dulling their consciousness and by recalling that which they had seen in earlier epochs. The culture of ancient India preserved this through its highest representatives. The Hindu did not seek to enhance his consciousness, but he dimmed it down to a dreamy state, and this explains the passivity of the Hindu character.
It would be a great disadvantage, indeed harmful, if modern culture were to take hold in a greater measure of life in India.
During the first epochs the human beings did not perceive minerals; and what the Atlantean saw least clearly of all was the mineral kingdom. Through his visions, the spirit-world was the one which existed for him, and this world lived in everything. He perceived the human being surrounded by colors — by sympathetic colors if he liked him. This was the world which the Hindu tried to conjure up again. But human progress requires that man shall enter more and more into a relationship with that which exists upon the Earth in the world of matter. The Atlanteans did not need any instruments; they orientated themselves through their clairvoyance, and they attributed no importance whatever to physical instruments. The Hindu followed the Atlantean in this, and consequently he looked upon the physical world as maya, as a kind of illusion and lie. He had no interest in the world which is accessible to the ordinary senses. He asked the dream-like world of the Spirit to rise up before him.
The progress from this Indian culture to the next cultural epoch, i.e. the Persian one proceeding from the time of Zarathustra, consisted in the fact of humanity learning to appreciate external reality. A second colony went out from the Gobi Desert and founded a kingdom in Asia Minor which existed in remote times and which gave birth to the kingdom of Zarathustra. The Persian began to perceive the existence of a world in which he had to be active. The Divine essence appeared to him as something which he had to overcome, against which he had to measure his strength. From the spiritual world he drew the forces which he needed in order to work in this world. The world appeared to him as something dark, which had to be transformed with the aid of the good forces. The Hindu established a science pertaining exclusively to the spiritual world, which told him nothing about the external reality. But to the Persian this external reality presented another aspect: it was something which had to be constantly transformed through his own work.
The third colony which went out from the Gobi Desert went further west into Asia Minor and founded the Chaldean-Babylonian-Egyptian cycle of culture. In addition to the earlier science of the Spirit, these nations also possessed a science of the physical world. An astrology and geometry arose in Egypt which taught the Egyptians how to treat and cultivate the Earth. Science extended to spheres which the Hindu still looked upon as a world of illusion. Now this world of illusion had become a world calling for the keenest thought, for a manner of thinking connected with physical things. When the Hindu immersed himself in the starry world, this world was to him only the expression of the Godhead. But the Chaldean loved the physical world; to him it was a part of the Godhead into which he penetrated and immersed himself. This activity leading him from the divine world into the physical world appears to us in the Babylonian-Assyrian culture.
We have now reached a point leading us to the fourth cultural cycle, which we designate as the Graeco-Latin culture. The human being is now included in the external perception, The Egyptian knew that the world was not a chaos, but that it was fraught with meaning and that it had been constructed throughout immeasurable aeons of time. The sphinx and the pyramid expressed great cosmic thoughts. The ancient Egyptian concealed his knowledge of these truths in images: he created the sphinx, which faces us like a riddle of evolution itself: the development of man's higher essence from earlier animal-like conditions. This was the wisdom which the Egyptian spoke out into the world in his own way. In ancient Egypt you may find calculations and measurements which were drawn directly from heaven. The cities were built in such a way that the Egyptians expressed in these constructions a sacred order of laws, and they sought to express in images the cosmic laws which governed the universe. This did not as yet include the individual human essence, which only begins to unfold in Greek art, and which shows us that man now takes hold of his own being as an immediate reality and seeks to create it as an image in space.
Man became more and more familiar with the world which the Hindu designated as maya. He began to face his own self. Within the world which in ancient India was considered as an illusion the Greek created a world of realities and realized that he had to create it without the help of the Gods; more and more he united himself with the external reality, and out of his own strength he permeated the external reality with a divine essence.
If you study the Greek “polis” you do not find in it any trace of jurisprudence. Man had to establish this during the Roman epoch as “Roman right,” which governed the private social intercourse of men as Roman citizens.
The human being thus acquired an ever greater knowledge of that which takes place in the world of external reality.
The fifth cycle of culture is the one in which we now live, with our materialistic civilization. It is the time in which man has descended most profoundly into the external world. Compare our age with preceding ones: We know, to be sure, how to apply the forces of the spiritual world to our physical environment — we carry the spiritual world into it. But in the light of spiritual science this presents strange aspects. Think of the time when the human being still produced his flour by grinding corn between two stones — he did not apply much spiritual power to do this. In ancient Egypt and Chaldea he still immersed himself in the wisdom of the heavens; he still learned a great deal concerning the spiritual significance of the Earth itself and of the starry sky. The Greek still placed into the world of physical reality the idealized human form. What is the aspect of our own time? A great amount of spiritual power is used to produce modern natural science with its technical appliances. How great is the difference between obtaining food by primitive means and obtaining it from America with the aid of telephones, engines, etc.! Yet these complicated technical means are after all used to satisfy the same needs also felt by animals and which animals are able to satisfy by primitive means! Try to investigate how many of the modern inventions really serve spiritual life, and how much spiritual power is used for the sake of furthering material life! What an enormous amount of spiritual power must human beings develop at the present time for the satisfaction of material requirements! There is no great difference whether an animal satisfies its hunger by grazing, or whether man obtains his food from America or Australia through all kinds of means.
This is not an adverse criticism, for this had to come. Man had to submerge himself in the physical world. The Hindu still looke, upon it as an illusion, but modern man considers the physical world as the only reality. We have reached the deepest point in our descent, and this rendered possible the greatest progress upon the physical plane. This descent, however, must not be in vain, even from a spiritual aspect!
A new element has now arisen, an element that was implanted into the world during the first third of the post-Atlantean epoch: it is the rise of Christianity, the most significant influence in the whole development of the Earth. In the light of occultism, everything which preceded is only the preparation for Christianity. Buddha, Hermes, and so forth prophetically pointed towards Christianity, for Christianity must lift man out of his deepest entanglement with matter. And it will raise man out of this entanglement. Man's ascent from matter begins again. The task of spiritual science is to help in this ascent into the spiritual world.
The next epoch of our post-Atlantean culture will bring still more inventions and discoveries — but man will more and more perceive mere letters in the physical world. A genuine Christianity will speak of the external world as condensed Spirit, and the Spirit will once more arise out of matter. We shall then no longer say that the external world is an illusion, for we shall recognize it fully and lose nothing, and yet rise up to a higher spiritual world.
Christianity will contribute most of all towards this course of development. During the sixth epoch, great masses of men will be deeply moved and seized by truths which are now revealed to few, and this will give mankind an insight into the spiritual world. What now exists as thought will in future be a real force. Many people will have this power of thought during the sixth epoch of culture. The theosophical Christianity of today will spread among great masses of men. These thoughts will grow stronger and stronger and they will have a creative influence upon the human form.
Once upon a time the human body had quite a different aspect from that which it has today; indeed, if I were to describe to you this human body of ancient times you would be greatly surprised. Because it was still soft, the Ego could exercise a far greater influence upon it. Modern man has only retained an insignificant rest of the psychic influence of will upon his body: for instance, when you are seized by sudden fright you grow pale, because the inner soul-condition penetrates as far as the blood and your complexion changes. But other bodily conditions can show you how little we are now able to control our body. With the gradual ascent into the spiritual world this will change: man's body will become softer and softer and he will once more be able to influence it: the thoughts which now still exist so sparsely will gradually grow stronger; these thoughts will then be able to transform even the body. Man will be able to mold his own body — but this will only be the case in a very distant future.
Sex arose in the human being only during the Lemurian age; before that time he was bisexual, both male-and female. With the incorporation of the Ego, the human being was split into two sexes. We shall learn to know this better when we shall consider more closely the development of the human blood. This will lead us to the problem of the division into sexes and also to the fact that the now-existing division of the sexes will again disappear.
Thus we look into a future in which the human being will exercise quite a different influence upon his body.
What is, for example, that which sends the blush of shame into our face? What is it? A last remnant of the influence which man once exercised over his body. Man will more and more be able to work consciously into his body, and then will come the time when he will be able to transform the muscle of his heart into one which obeys him.
Science describes the heart as a mere physical apparatus: as a pump. But the blood does not only stream through the body because the heart pumps the blood through it: everything which constitutes the blood depends upon the soul; the blood pulses more or less quickly according to our feelings, and it is the blood which produces the movement of the heart. But in future the human being will have a conscious influence upon the heart; therefore the heart is an organ which is now at the beginning of its development. The heart is a muscle with a spiritual development, an organ through which the human being will be able to express himself as he develops towards a higher stage, thus exercising a creative influence upon his whole body.
The heart is only at the beginning of its development, and for this reason it is a cross to materialistic science. Materialistic science tells you that all the muscles through which you move are formed of transversal strips, but all those muscles which move automatically consist of longitudinal strips. The heart, however, is a peculiar organ upsetting every calculation! It is an automatic muscle; nevertheless it has, even today, transversal fibers.
Tomorrow I will show you how certain things can be explained in the light of spiritual science.
Spiritual science thus throws light upon that which surrounds us. We shall redeem everything which has become matter from its present rigid condition. This is how the thought of redemption may be grasped in its deepest essence! Man has developed to an ever higher stage, leaving behind him certain kingdoms in the course of this development. He will become powerful and redeem that which he has left behind; he will help to redeem the Earth! But if he is to redeem the Earth he must not despise it, but unite himself with it.