Saturday, April 2, 2011
The incarnations of the human being and of the Earth
Theosophy and Rosicrucianism. Lecture 8 of 14
Rudolf Steiner, June 23, 1907:
Let me add a few supplementary explanations to the problem of reincarnation and karma, and then pass on to the discussion of the development of our Earth, for only the consideration of these facts enables us to understand man's true nature as it appears to us in relation to the cosmic conditions. I shall conclude this course of lectures by leading you on to the contemplation of man's development, when he endeavors to attain vision and knowledge of the higher worlds.
In order to penetrate into the spiritual worlds we must first consider the pre-Christian training, secondly the Christian training, and thirdly the Rosicrucian training.
Further explanations connected with the problem of reincarnation should really be reserved for a separate chapter, becaue for beginners they are difficult to understand. What we shall discuss now refers to the time which lies between two incarnations. In itself it is a problem which shocks modern materialistic thought.
Immediate spiritual experience, which is one of the sources of knowledge at the disposal of the spiritual investigator, cannot be attained by those who lack spiritual vision. But those who apply the training which will be spoken of later on will be well able to find out in what epoch the majority of men now living on Earth passed through their last earthly incarnation. I shall then discuss what means were used in the Chaldean and Pythagorean schools, and in every other occult school of pre-Christian times, to enable man to enter the spiritual world.
All those who have insight into the conditions which exist in the spiritual world, all those who are able to trace human development back into the preceding incarnations, will discover that the majority of souls now living had their preceding incarnation in the first centuries after Christ's birth, up to the 8th and 9th century. But these are average conditions, for the time between two incarnations may also be of shorter or of longer duration.
Another fact is connected with the one mentioned, a fact which must now be strongly emphasized: namely, there are certain uncommonly radical thinkers of the present who claim equality for all men. This is nothing but the materialistic aspect of a claim for equality which was advanced during the first Christian centuries — equality in the face of God, and equality in the face of the temporal powers.
Many of the people who advanced this claim for equality during the early centuries of Christianity and who then passed through the portal of death with unfulfilled claims, many of these people whose souls took with them into the spiritual world this longing for equality in the face of God and of the temporal powers, are born again at the present time, and they of course bring with them a particular attitude in regard to these claims, but in a transformed shape which is in keeping with the modern materialistic world-conception. But these men who return to the Earth overlook the materialistic influence which the modern age exercises upon their claims. It is not right to believe or to declare that the modern idea of freedom comes from Christianity.
The transformation of the old claim of equality in the face of God and of the temporal powers into the modern claim for equality under all earthly conditions can only be viewed in the right way if we survey the true connections revealed by the spiritual-scientific world-concepton. Those who survey these true connections and at the same time consider the modern materialistic world-conception realize without further ado that the claim for equality advanced by modern radical thinkers is something which necessarily had to arise independently and of its own accord. On the other hand, however, it is a fact that the human beings must from now onwards rise again from materialism to spiritualism. This alone can heal social conditions. There is no other remedy than spiritual science itself.
This problem is discussed more fully in numbers 30, 32, and 34 of the magazine “Lucifer-Gnosis.” All the other remedies, even those advanced from high quarters, suffer from the blemish of amateurishness, for modern men know nothing whatever of the higher worlds. If modern social thinkers were to submit to some extent to the inspirations of spiritual science, they would really discover ways and means of approaching these problems.
Even as it is true that humanity had to descend from a spiritual past into materialism, so it is also true that it must rise again to spirituality. A spiritual world-conception alone can produce something that gives rise to harmony, peace, and love. Even in this sphere, spiritual science can be of practical help in the highest possible way.
Now I will show you how a conception of the human course of development gained through spiritual-scientific observations can lead us back to the events that lie between death and rebirth.
I have already explained to you that it is not in vain that the human being returns to the Earth many times, and we have seen that the reason for this lies in the fact that with every new incarnation the human being finds, entirely new conditions upon the Earth. With every new incarnation he gathers new fruits for the future, for the Earth has each time undergone a complete transformation, both in regard to human civilization and the external aspect of nature. Every time the human being enters the earthly sphere through a new incarnation, he finds the face of the Earth completely changed.
According to the Chaldean conception, the transformation of the Earth depends upon the Sun's relationship to the other stars. You may find more detailed explanations on this in many of my lectures; now I can only refer to it quite briefly.
If you observe the astronomical aspect when the Sun rises at the vernal point, if you observe this vernal point and the other conditions in the world of the stars, you will find that the Sun's position in regard to the other stars changes every spring. The vernal point advances year by year, so that in about 26,000 years (25,920) this point returns to where it was 26,000 years ago. This closes a cycle. But the circle thus described is only an apparent one, for in reality the sun describes a spiral. The vernal point was fixed in accordance with the constellation with which it coincided, and the Sun accordingly describes a circle in the sky and this circle is designated as the Zodiac with its twelve signs. Every year the Sun advances a little, and within 26,000 years tho Sun has passed through all the signs of the Zodiac.
About 747 B.C. the Sun rose in the sign of Aries; and since the Sun's passage through all the Zodiac signs takes up about 25,920 years, one twelfth of the time, i.e., 2,160 years, is needed in order to pass from one sign to the other. The change in the face of our Earth is really dependent upon the fact that the vernal point advances. After an epoch of about 2,200 years the face of the Earth has therefore changed to such an extent that entirely new conditions have arisen; and on the average, the human being advances to a new incarnation within this space of time.
The observations of occult science show that this is indeed the case. Ancient peoples always connected a definite feeling with the rising of the Sun in the vernal point of Aries, and this feeling may be described as follows: “From the sign of Aries the Sun again sends down to us for the first time this year the rays which conjure up the plants from the Earth.” They thought that the sign of Aries sent them these rays and and so they particularly venerated this sign. Sacred feelings of a definate kind were connected with the naming of the Zodiac signs. Aries sends down the forces of the vernal Sun, and in the Lamb the peoples of those times therefore saw a symbol for the regenerating forces in nature and in the human being. Many legends are connected with it; for instance, the legend of Jason going in quest of the Golden Fleece, which symbolizes something immensely prized by men. This veneration for the Ram or the Lamb held sway for many centuries and it was taken over by Christianity. That is why a lamb could originally be seen on the Cross, instead of Christ. And that is why Christ was called the Lamb of God.
If that is so, and if the Sun rose in the sign of Aries from the 8th century B.C. onwards, another form of worship must have existed before that time, when the Sun's vernal point lay in the sign of Taurus. In fact before the 8th century B.C. the bull was venerated instead of the lamb. This veneration lies at the foundation of the temple-cult of Apis in ancient Egypt, and of the Persian Mithras-cult. 2,200 years earlier, the Sun rose in the sign of Gemini, and this sign too played a part in the ancient cultures of those times. The ancient Persian religion, with its Ormuzd and Ahriman cult, may be traced back to this.
Thus we see that the ancient peoples had very significant conceptions in connection with the Sun's passage through the single signs of the Zodiac. This again is connected with the fact that man reincarnates after a definite space of time; on the average, when 2,200 years have gone by since his last incarnation. Within this epoch, it makes a great difference whether he incarnates upon the Earth as a man or as a woman, and so the calculation of the time during which the single. incarnations take place is very complicated. A human being's experiences during an incarnation as a man or as a woman differ so much that he must incarnate twice during this epoch of 2,200 years, once as a man, and once as a woman, so that two incarnations succeed one another during the average period of one thousand years. Therefore 1,100 to 1,200 years only lie between two incarnations. Generally speaking, it is therefore right that a male and a female incarnation should alternate, but in exceptional cases there may be several succeeding incarnations of the same sex (the greatest number which could be observed was seven), but then the sex changes. These are exceptions, for as a rule the sexes alternate in the successive incarnations.
This can be said of the time which lies between two incarnations. But its duration depends upon many other things besides. For instance, a certain individuality may be particularly suited to a definite epoch, in order to fulfill a certain task. In such a case the higher powers may draw this individuality into an incarnation before the expiration of the normal period. They draw him down, because his whole constitution enables him to fulfil a definite mission. This is particularly the case with the great leaders of humanity. But in the whole of human life the balance is reestablished later on, for such an individuality will have to live through a correspondingly longer time in Devachan.
Another thing which must be said is that there is a kind of counterpart to the experience already described to you, which takes place immediately after death, when man looks back upon his past life as on a picture. This counterpart consists in a kind of prophetic vision of the following life on Earth.
Let us bear in mind once more how the retrospective vision arises at the moment of death. You know that the etheric body has the two principal tasks of stimulating the vital functions of the physical body, that is to say, of constantly protecting the physical substance against decay and of regulating the structure of this substance; but the etheric body is also the seat of memory. When the etheric body abandons the physical body at the moment of death, it is relieved of its first task, and then its second quality comes to the foreground, that is to say, the memory of everything which the human being experienced during his past life. This forms the retrospective picture of human life. At the moment man's being only consists of the etheric body, the astral body, and the ego.
When man enters a new incarnation the following arises: the ego descends from the spiritual world with all the imperishable extracts which it has acquired, both those pertaining to the etheric and to the astral body. For the building-up of a new astral body, the ego must attract all those astral qualities corresponding to the development through which it has passed so far, and afterwards it must similarly attract the etheric qualities. All this takes place during the first days after conception, and the new etheric body begins to work independently and to develop the physical germ of the human being only after the 18th or 20th day, whereas before that time the mother's etheric body fulfilled that which must then be done by the new etheric body. From the 18-20th day after conception, the individuality about to incarnate, which has enveloped its ego with a new astral and etheric body, begins to take possession of the physical body, which has up to that time been formed by the mother.
When the human being thus takes possession of the physical body, he consists of exactly the same members as during the moment of death; in the latter case he had just discarded the physical body, and in the former, he has not yet taken it up. This will easily enable you to understand that when the human being enters his new physical body, something arises which is analogous to his experience on discarding this body at the moment of death. When he enters his new physical body, the human being has a kind of fore-vision of his coming life, even as at the moment of death he has a retrospection of his past life. But he forgets this fore-vision, because the constitution of his physical body does net yet allow him to retain it in his memory.
At this moment the human being realizes: “These are the family-conditions into which I am born, these are the geographical and local conditions and my destiny ...” And at that moment it may sometimes occur that when the human being thus foresees a sad or a terrible experience which lies in store for him, he receives a shock and is afraid of the life which awaits him, so that his etheric body does not properly unite with the physical body, it does not wish to enter it. Idiocy is the result of such a fright of the etheric body's reluctance to enter properly into the physical body. A clairvoyant may perceive the etheric body of such people protruding above the physical head and because the etheric body is not properly structured into the physical head, the brain remains behind in its development, for the etheric body does not work upon it as it should. Many cases of idiocy today are dependent upon this.
If we bear in mind that the majority of men who are reincarnated today passed through their preceding incarnation dating the 9th to the 11th century A.D., we can easily understand that the modern age in particular produces such cases of idiocy. By applying a kind of physical treatment the etheric body may be influenced so that it gradually penetrates into the physical body, and this may improve the condition. Such a treatment, however, can only be applied by a person who is able to see the spiritual cause of the existing facts, so that he can deal with the case properly.
We know from the preceding explanations that man's whole being consists of physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego. These members do not simply fit together, but they interpenetrate and they all influence one another. Thus they all influence the physical body and cooperate in working upon it in such a way that it can develop properly. When you face a human being and your higher organs of perception are undeveloped, you can only see his physical body. But the physical body appears to you as it does only because the etheric body, the astral body, and the ego permeate it, and because they all cooperated in developing this physical body. The physical organs of the human body were not built up chaotically by the three higher members, for we can clearly perceive how the higher members worked upon the structure of the physical body. Let us try to form a picture of this.
In the physical body we have first of all that which constitutes in a certain connection the purely physical organs. These organs are based upon purely physical laws — namely, the eyes, the ears, the larynx, etc. The eye is, to be sure, a living organ and it obtains its life from the etheric body which permeates and nourishes it, but seen from a purely physical standpoint it is a complicated apparatus, ruled by the same forces which are also active in inorganic Nature, for instance, in the crystal. We may therefore look upon the activity of the eye in accordance with purely physical laws.
These sensory apparatuses must first extricate themselves from the physical body. They are organs which we first learn to know more strictly as organs which are built up by the physical forces and according to physical laws.
We then have a second group of organs: the organs of nutrition, growth, and procreation, culminating in the activity of the glands. The etheric body is chiefly involved in the development of these organs.
As a third group we have the nervous system, which is built up essentially by the astral body.
And in the fourth place we have that which constitutes the red blood in animals and in man: the red blood, the warm blood, is built up by the ego.
We thus have firstly the purely physical parts, the sensory organs — later on, also the purely mineral osseous system which is built up by the physical body itself.
Secondly, the glandular system, the organs of procreation and so forth, which are built up by the etheric body.
Thirdly, the nervous system, which is built up by the astral body.
Fourthly, the blood system, which is built up by the ego.
When we consider the development of the Earth, we shall understand this better.
You should realize that the law of reincarnation must be applied to the whole world, not only to the human being. I now live upon the Earth; I am the reincarnation of my preceding state, but this is not only the case with me, as human being, but in a certain way with everything which fills the world's spaces — among other things, with the planets. Even as we are the reincarnation of former individualities, so the Earth is, among other things, the reincarnation of an earlier planetary condition.
The reincarnations of our Earth are not unlimited in number, either in regard to the past or to the future; even the best clairvoyant cannot look back further than a definite state of being in regard to our Earth, for even his knowledge is subjected to limitations. The clairvoyant can look back as far as three incarnations of our Earth, and similarly he can survey three incarnations which will follow the present one. Including the present state of the Earth he thus surveys seven incarnations.
It may perhaps sound superstitious to people who hear this for the first time: that the clairvoyant sets the Earth so to speak in the center of this course of development, and one might say: This is a very strange coincidence! But only a superficial judgment induces one to speak like that, for it is not more strange than the fact that when I stand in an open field I can look out everywhere at an equal distance, for I stand in the middle of the horizon. And through the ego I also stand in the center of the sevenfold human being: physical body, etheric body, astral body, ego, Spirit-Self, Life-Spirit, Spirit-Man. This is based upon the same standpoint.
Even my explanations regarding the planetary development of our Earth may surprise many people and seem strange to them.
Our Earth developed out of a former planet. This planet from which our Earth arose can no longer be seen in the sky. But a fragment of that which once existed may be seen in the present Moon; the Moon is a fragment of the Earth's predecessor. If you were to mix the present Earth and the present Moon and all the spiritual beings living upon them, you would more or less obtain an image of the Earth's preceding incarnation, which the occultist designates as Moon. But you should bear in mind that this hypothesis is only advanced in order to make the process more comprehensible to you, yet like all hypotheses it is of course not quite correct. If we were to mix the present Earth and the present Moon in the same way in which we mix two substances in a chemical laboratory, we would not by a long way obtain the ancient Moon. For we must consider that when Earth and Moon separated, these two celestial bodies each continued their own development. The solid substance, for instance, which we call the mineral kingdom has only been formed since the present development of the Earth. Before this development of the Earth, there were no minerals in the present meaning.
From this imaginary mixture of Earth and Moon we must therefore eliminate everything which developed afterwards. The mass of the ancient Moon did not consist of anything resembling the present mineral. Its consistency had not gone beyond a liquid or viscous condition. As stated, the above hypothesis has only been advanced in order to render things more comprehensible to people who have never heard anything of the planetary development of our Earth and of the whole cosmos. For a deeper understanding of this course of development, far more is needed, but this cannot be explained in an introductory course such as the present one, for such things can only be unfolded little by little. This course of development will then repeatedly be completed and illumined from ever new standpoints.
Before the Earth passed through this ancient Moon condition, it lived in a state of existence which occultists deeignate as the Sun. The Earth passed through conditions resembling those which still exist upon the present Sun. But if we now wish to apply the same hypothesis as before, things become more complicated. If you wish to have an idea of this condition, you must mix the Earth the Moon and the Sun, thus obtaining one celestial body, the former Sun. (Here again, the same restrictions must be borne in mind as in the case of the ancient Moon). In the further course of its development, the ancient Sun put out, cast out, from itself all the essential parts, forces, and substances of the present Earth, and Moon, and thus it changed from a planet into a fixed star. Also our Earth will one day become a Sun, when it shall have transformed all its beings into Beings of Light ...
Before its present condition, the Earth was therefore the ancient Moon-planet, and this was preceded by the ancient Sun. We may then look back upon a still earlier state of development, which occultists designate as Saturn. We can therefore distinguish the following states of development, which preceded our earth: Saturn, Sun, Moon, and Earth; and these will be followed by the Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan states.
Someone might say: You tell us that the Earth was once Saturn, but Saturn still shines in the sky even today. But the Saturn which once constituted our Earth has nothing in common with the star now shining down as Saturn. I do not mean to say that the beings who live upon the Earth once lived upon the Saturn which now shines in the sky. The present Saturn is connected with the former Saturn condition only as explained in the case of the present Moon and the ancient Moon condition. Since those remote times, the Saturn which we now see has passed through its own development, and the ancient Saturn is related to the present one in the same way in which a baby is related to an old man. The present Saturn was once in a condition resembling the ancient Saturn, even as an old man was once an infant.
When the spiritual investigator looks up to Jupiter, he finds upon Jupiter conditions and beings which the Earth will one day have, when it shall have become Jupiter.
This teaching has been handed down by the most ancient initiates, and initiates have explained this course of development over and over again to their pupils.
Certain parts of our language which may be traced back to the remotest past were formed by initiates. In an introductory course I cannot explain this fully, because this would lead us too far away from our main subject. But in ancient times, when the formation of speech was still still dependent upon initiates, language was quite different from what it is now. Today, for instance, when naming something, we choose a name because it is uncommon, but it has no deeper significance. In olden times, however, there was a deep significance in names, and the choice of a name depended upon inner conditions. Thus one wished to erect a kind of monument as a remembrance of the Earth's course of development through the ages, and through its planetary conditions. A kind of time-table was formed, so that man might always remember these phases. But if we wish to understand this table,we must first consider certain other things.
The above outline shows you that before its present Earth condition, the Earth passed through a Saturn, Sun, and Moon condition. Before the Earth became the present Earth, that is to say, during the transition from the Moon state of existence to the present Earth existence, the Earth stood under the strong influence of another celestial body, namely under the influence of Mars.
The important influence of Mars,which is of tremendous significance for the further development of our Earth, was exercised just at the beginning of the development of our Earth. Parenthetically let it be said that the Earth then obtained from Mars the iron substances which were not contained in the earthly substance.
During the first stage of its development the Earth was therefore influenced by Mars, and during the second half, that is to say, now, it became subjected to the stronger influence of Mercury. This explains why occultism drops the designation “Earth” and subdivides the conditions of the Earth into two halves, the Mars part and the Mercury part. This changes the above diagram as follows: Saturn condition, Sun condition, Moon condition, Mars and Mercury condition, Jupiter condition, Venus condition, and Vulcan condition.
The Vulcan condition would therefore be the eighth in the series; within this course of development it plays the same part as the octave in music. Even as the octave repeats, as it were, the first tone, but on a higher scale, so the Vulcan condition is a repetition of the Saturn condition, but upon a higher stage of development. The whole cosmos developed out of the spirit, and in the Vulcan stage everything will once more return to the spirit, but upon a higher and more manifold stage of development. Innumerable spirit-men developed out of a uniform spirituality, even as out of the seed which the sower planted in the Earth, grains resembling this seed reach a manifold development in the ear of corn which ripens in the autumn. Everything perishable is but a symbol.
The ancient initiates made these seven names flow into that monumental tablet mentioned above, in memory of the Earth's course of development, and this is given to us in the names of the seven days of the week:
The day of Saturn = Saturday
The day of the Sun = Sunday
The day of the Moon = Monday
The day of Mars = Mardi (Mars = Ziu, Dius = Tuesday)
The day of Mercury = Mercredi (Mercury = Wodan = Wednesday)
The day of Jupiter = Giovedì (Thor = Thursday)
The day of Venus = Vedredi (Venus = Freya = Friday)
A monument has indeed been preserved in the names of the days of the week, a monument which reminds us of the seven stages of development of our Earth. Apparently common things in life may thus show us deep spiritual connections.
You must now bear in mind that even the whole development of humanity is intimately connected with this planetary evolution. Indeed the whole human development can only be understood in the light of the planetary evolution.
Each member of the human being is intimately connected with one of these planetary stages of evolution of the Earth, in so far as the foundation of each of the members of the human being was laid during one of these phases.
The physical body was thus prepared during the Saturn age, the etheric body during the Sun epoch, the astral body during the Moon phase, and the ego entered the human being only during the Earth phase. The physical body is consequently the most perfectly developed member, whereas the etheric body is only in the third stage of its development, for it was prepared upon the ancient Sun; the astral body is in the second stage, for it was prepared upon the ancient Moon; and the ego is the baby among the members of the human being, for its development only began with the present Earth condition.
An indication for what has just been said may be found by considering the four members of man from the aspect of their development.
During the infancy of the Theosophical Society the expressions “higher” and “lower” members were much in use; the physical body was designated as the lowest member and this was frequently connected with ideas of value. All too frequently people were inclined to look upon the physical body as the least valuable of all and they even despised it. But this is quite wrong.
If you look more closely upon the wonderful structure of the physical body you will find without further ado that it stands upon a tremendously high stage of perfection, whereas this is, for instance, not the case at all with the etheric body. If you look upon the physical body through the eyes of wisdom, you will find a wonderful structure in every one of its organs — in the heart, in the bones, etc. Observe the wise structure of the heart and consider the work done daily and hourly by this comparatively small organ. Compare this with the present comparatively still deficient development of the astral body: the unpurified passions which live in it every day, man's longing for pleasures which literally ill-treat the structure of the heart — nevertheless the heart is able to paralyze these harmful astral influences without breaking, and frequently without undergoing any damage.
Today the astral body is not so developed as the physical body; at present the physical body is the most perfect member. But in the future the astral body will reach a stage in which it will surpass the physical body Also the etheric body is less developed than the physical body, and the astral body stands in the third place. The ego is the youngest of the members constituting the human being, and it will consequently be the last to reach perfection.
Everything in the physical body constituting its essentially physical part is therefore oldest of all. Our physieal body passed through a development before the etheric body was incorporated with it. And this development through which the physical body passed purely as physical body is the Saturn phase. There, the first foundation of the physical body was merely a physical apparatus.
The course of development proceeded, and upon the Sun the etheric body was incorporated with the physical body, The etheric body filled, as it were, the physical body, in a certain way transforming it. During the Moon state of existence the astral body was added, and the ego was only added during our present Earth condition. Today man is a fourfold being. During the Moon epoch he consisted of physical, etheric, and astral body; during the Sun epoch he consisted of physical and etheric body, and during the Saturn epoch only of the physical body. The physical body therefore has four, the etheric body three, the astral body two, and the ego one phase of development. The physical body is the most perfect member, because it has been elaborated more than the others.
Thus you see how the single members of the human being are connected with the development of the whole planetary system. In occult books you will therefore find the following designations:
Saturn body for the physical body,
Sun body for the etheric body,
Moon body for the astral body,
and Earth body for the ego, which is the real earthly member of man
Tomorrow we shall study the development and the whole life upon Saturn, and then we shall pass on to the Sun and to the Moon. This will show you how the human beings perfected themselves more and more until they reached the present state.