Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, December 1, 1923:
Saturday, November 16, 2013
The casting off of the Earth, the Plants, and the Animals from the Human Being so that we could develop Willing, Feeling, and Thinking
Mystery Knowledge and Mystery Centers. Lecture 5 of 14.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, December 1, 1923:
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, December 1, 1923:
Through that which I gave you in my last lecture it is now possible to speak more exactly of many of those events which occurred in the course of the evolution of the Earth, and which have brought about its present form. You will remember I said that one who has attained to knowledge through inner vision comes into a certain relationship with the metals of the Earth, with all that has its being in the Earth, through the fact that the Earth is permeated with veins of metal, that the Earth in general carries within itself various kinds of metals. This relationship into which man can enter with the metals enables him to look back on that which has happened to the Earth.
It is particularly interesting to look back to what happened on the Earth in the times preceding the Atlantean evolution, that period which I have described in a somewhat external way as the Lemurian epoch; to look back also to the period of time which immediately preceded this, when the Earth went through the Sun stage. During the Lemurian epoch the Earth went through the Moon stage. It is interesting to look back on all these events, for we thereby receive an impression of how wonderful is everything in the sphere of earthly existence.
Nowadays we are accustomed to regard the Earth as complete in the form which it presents to us today. We live on the continents as human beings, and are surrounded by what the Earth bears upon it in the way of plants, animals, birds of the air, and so on. We know that we ourselves live, in a certain sense, in a sort of air-ocean, the atmosphere which surrounds the Earth, that out of this atmosphere we take oxygen into ourselves, that our relation to the nitrogen also plays a certain role. We picture to ourselves in general that this atmosphere, consisting in oxygen and nitrogen, surrounds us. Then we look upon the oceans, the seas — I need not go into every detail — and we form a picture of the planet which we inhabit in the universe.
The Earth was not always as it is today; it has undergone tremendous changes. If we go back to the times I have just indicated, to the Lemurian age and a little further back, we find quite a different condition of the Earth from what we have today.
Let us begin with the atmosphere in which we now live, and which we regard as non-living, lifeless; even this atmosphere shows itself in those early ages as something quite different. If we go still further back we have to observe something else. Today, we have this firm solid Earth-kernel and around it the atmosphere. A similar mental picture might also be made even for those very ancient times, but there could be no question of there being around the Earth anything like the air we now breathe. In the air we breathe today oxygen and nitrogen play the chief part, carbon and hydrogen play a less important part, and sulphur and phosphorus a still less significant one.
As regards those very ancient times it is really not possible to speak of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, sulphur, and so on, simply because what the chemist calls by these names today did not exist in this ancient period. If a chemist of today were to meet a spiritual being of that time and speak of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, etc., that being would reply “Such things do not exist.” It is possible to speak today of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, etc., but in those ancient times there was absolutely no possibility of speaking of these things, for they could only be present as such after the Earth had reached a certain density and had acquired forces such as it has within it today. Oxygen, nitrogen, potassium, sodium, and so on, all the lighter so-called metals, simply did not exist in that ancient epoch. On the other hand there was at that time around the Earth, in the place where today we have the atmosphere, something which was of an exceedingly fine fluid nature, of a consistency halfway between our present air and water. It was of a fluid nature, but in its fluidity it was similar to albumen; so that in reality the Earth at that time was entirely surrounded by an albuminous atmosphere. The albumen in eggs today is very much denser, but it may be compared with that of which we are now speaking.
From this environment of the Earth when later the Earth become denser, what we now call carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and so on were gradually differentiated. They were not there in such a way that we can say this ancient albuminous atmosphere was composed of these elements, for it did not have these several elements as ingredients. Today we generally think of things as being formed by combination, but that is nonsense. What we know as certain higher substances are not always composed of what appears when they are analyzed, for these things cease to be present in the higher substance. Carbon is not present there as carbon, nor oxygen as oxygen, but there is a substance of a higher nature. As I have said, this substance according to its qualities may really be described as albumen in an excessively fluid condition. The whole of this substance surrounding the Earth at that time was permeated from the universe with cosmic ether, which gave it life. So that we have to represent to ourselves the cosmic ether as projecting into this substance and giving it life.
This substance lived because the cosmic ether projected itself into it. Not only was it alive, it was also differentiated in a remarkable manner, e.g. in one part there appears a large structure in which man would be suffocated, in another part another large structure appears in which man could specially have regained new life and activity if he could have been there at that time as a human being, and so forth. Formations arose, producing effects which remind one of the chemical elements of today, but chemical elements in our modern sense did not exist. Then the whole was pervaded by reflections of light, gleams of light, rays of light, sparkles of light. And finally the whole was warmed through by the cosmic ether.
Such were the characteristics at that early period of the Earth's atmosphere. The first thing to be fashioned from out of the cosmos is what I described in the last lecture as the very first primeval mountains. These were fashioned from out of the cosmos. Thus the quartz that is found out there in the primeval mountains in its beautiful form, in its relative transparency, was formed in the Earth to a certain extent from out of the universe. That is why, today, if we transfer ourselves through Imaginative vision into these rocks of the primeval mountains into what are now the hardest formations of the Earth, they are to us as the eyes of the Earth, through which it gazes out into the universe. But also it was the universe which implanted these eyes in the Earth. They are there now. The universe has placed them in the Earth. The quartz, the silica, and such like which then permeated the whole atmosphere and were gradually deposited as primeval mountains were not so hard as today. This only came afterwards, this hardened state, through circumstances which developed later. All that was thus fashioned out of the cosmos in that far-off time was scarcely harder than wax.
If you go now into those mountainous regions and there see a quartz crystal, it is so hard that, as I have said before, if you were to knock your head against it your skull would crack but not the quartz. At that far-off time, however, because of the life which pervaded everything, the quartz was actually as soft as wax. We may, therefore, say that these rocks of the primeval mountains came out of the cosmos as a kind of trickling wax.
All that thus slipped into the Earth from out of the cosmos was transparent, and its relative hardness, its wax-like hardness, can only be described by mentally employing the sense of touch. If we could have grasped it, it would have felt like wax.
It was in this way that these ancient mountains were deposited from out of the cosmos as a kind of wax-substance trickling in and then gradually hardening. Silica had a wax-like consistency at the time in which it was deposited out of the cosmos into the Earth.
That which today is present more spiritually and which I described in the last lecture, viz. that by transposing oneself into this hard rock one has pictures of the cosmos — this phenomenon was at that time quite perceptible spiritually, and in such a way that when such silicates in the wax-like condition began to condense one could distinguish in them something like a kind of plant-form. Anyone who has looked around a little on nature knows quite well that something like distinctive marks of an ancient time are to be found. in the mineral world today. We find stones, we take them in our hands, we look attentively at them, and we find they have within them something like the outline of a plant-form. At that time it was quite a usual phenomenon which came into this albuminous atmosphere, pushed in as it were as outlines which could not only be seen but which were substantially photographed in this wax-like body.
Then the peculiar configuration came about that the fluid albumen which existed in the atmosphere filled in these outline forms and thereby they became somewhat harder, somewhat denser. Then they were no longer merely outline forms. The silicious part fell away from them and was dispersed in the rest of the atmosphere. In the earliest part of the Lemurian epoch we have those gigantic floating plant-formations reminding us somewhat of the forms of the algae of today, which are not rooted in the soil, for as yet there was no soil there. They floated in this fluid albumen with which they were permeated and out of which they formed their own substance. Not only did they float in this fluid albumen, they also shone forth — I might say they lit up and then faded away. They were capable of transformation to the extent that they could arise and disappear.
Place this picture clearly before your minds. It is a picture which is indeed very different from anything around us today. If we as modern men could transpose ourselves into that ancient epoch, if, let us say, we could set up a little sentry box somewhere and watch what happened around, if from it we could look out into that ancient world, we should see all around us, over there a plant-form shoots up, a tremendous plant-form, like our present algae (sea-weed) or even like a palm. But it shoots up. It does not grow out of the Earth in spring and die down in autumn; it shoots up, appearing in the springtime (the springtime was much shorter then) and reaches a tremendous size. Then it disappears again into the fluid albumen-like element. Such an observer would see green ever appearing and then fading away. He would not speak of plants covering the Earth but of plants which like air-clouds appear from out of the cosmos, become dense, and then dissolve away, something which grows green in this element of albumen. Then in the time which would somewhat correspond to our summertime today he would say: This is the time when the environment of our Earth grows green. But he would have to look up to the green rather than look down on it.
In this way the idea comes to us how the flinty part of the Earth atmosphere draws down into the Earth, and how the plant-force which is really out there in the cosmos attracts it up to itself, how the plant-world comes down to the Earth from out of the cosmos. In the period of which I am now speaking we have to say: This plant-world is something which arises and passes away in the atmosphere.
Something else must also be said. If today as human beings we transfer ourselves through this relationship with the metallic elements of the Earth back into those ancient times we feel as if all this belonged to ourselves, as if we had something to do with that which at that time within the atmosphere grew green and then faded away. When today we recall our own childhood, our memory extends over a relatively short span of time. Yet just as we can recall a pain which we experienced in childhood — and that is something which belongs to us — in the same way in this cosmic recollection aroused by the metallic element of the Earth we experience this process of the becoming green and fading away as something which belongs to us. Man was already at that time connected with the Earth, that Earth which lived in this watery albuminous atmosphere. He was united with it as a human being but in such a way that as man he was still wholly spiritual. We express a reality when we say: Man must acquire the concept that these plants which we see there in the atmosphere at that time are something separated, something thrown off from that which is human. Man puts this out of his own being which itself is still united with the whole Earth. And he has this conception, or should have it, of something else that he places outside of him, something quite different. The following also happened. Everything I have hitherto described was brought about through the silica substance in the atmosphere having been already deposited in the wax-like substance of which I have spoken. But apart from that, this albuminous atmosphere extends everywhere. Upon this atmosphere the cosmos works. Upon this atmosphere there work the countless manifold forces which stream down to the Earth from the cosmos everywhere, those forces of which our modern science has no wish to know anything. Hence our modern science is indeed no true knowledge, for the most various phenomena which occur on the Earth would indeed not occur if they were not brought about by cosmic impulses and cosmic forces.
Because the learned men of today do not speak of these cosmic forces they do not speak of what above all things is reality. They take nowhere into account that which is really living. Even in the smallest particle which we look at under the microscope there live not only earthly but cosmic forces, and if this is not taken into account there is no reality.
Thus were the cosmic forces active at that time upon this fluid albumen in the environment of the Earth. These cosmic forces worked on many parts of this albumen in such a way that they congealed, so that one could see everywhere albumen congealed by the forces of the cosmos; this cosmically congealed albumen swam in the Earth environment. These forms of cosmically congealed albumen were not merely imaginary masses of clouds, they were living things having definite forms. These were actually animals which consisted in this congealed albumen thickened to the density of jelly or even to that of our present-day gristle. Such jelly-like animals existed in this fluid albuminous atmosphere. They had a shape which we find today on a smaller scale in our reptiles, in lizards and creatures of that kind; they were not so dense as these are, but they had gelatinous bodies and the power of movement. At one moment they had long limbs, at another these limbs were drawn back into the body. In short, everything about these limbs is like a snail which can extend and withdraw its feelers.
While all this was being formed outside, something else was being deposited in the Earth from out of the cosmos, another substance in addition to the silica, and that is what you find today as the chalk or limestone of the Earth. If you go into the primeval mountains, or merely into the Jura mountains, you find this limestone rock. This limestone rock certainly came to the Earth later, but it came in the same way as the silica out of the cosmos on to the Earth. Thus we find chalk as the second substance in the Earth.
This chalk continually oozes in, and the essential thing is that it works in such a way that the kernel of the Earth gradually becomes denser and denser. In certain localities the silica incorporates itself into the chalk. But the chalk retains the cosmic forces. Chalk indeed is something quite different from the coarse material which the chemists of today represent it to be. It contains formative forces, relatively active though unrecognized.
Now we come to a peculiar thing. If we consider a somewhat later time than that which I have described in connection with the phenomenon of the arising and passing away of the green, we find that in this albuminous atmosphere there is a continual rising and falling of chalky substance. Chalk-mist is formed and then chalk-rain. There was a period on the Earth when the water which today rises in mist and falls as rain was of a chalk nature which rose and fell, ascending and descending. Now the peculiar thing comes about that this chalk is specially attracted by the gelatinous, the gristly, forms; it permeates them, impregnates them with itself. And through the Earth forces which are in it (I told you the Earth-forces are in the chalk), through these forces, the whole gelatinous mass is gradually dissolved, the mass which, as we have seen, formed itself there as coagulated albumen. The chalk abstracts the albumen and carries it down nearer to the Earth, and from this gradually arise the animals which have bones containing lime. That is what develops in the later part of the Lemurian epoch.
We have, therefore, first of all to look upon the plants in their most ancient form as pure gifts from heaven. In the animals, in everything possessing an animal form, we have to see something which the Earth, after the heavens had given it chalk, took and made into an earthly form. These are the marvelous things which we discover in those ancient times. We feel so bound up with these things that we feel this whole process as an expansion of the human being into the cosmos.
Such things naturally sound paradoxical, because they touch upon a reality of which the man of the present day usually has no idea; nevertheless they are absolutely true. Does it not correspond with reality today when someone says from what he remembers: “When I was a child of nine years old I had a friend whom I fought or hurt?” That recollection is something which arises from within. The speaker may feel pleasure in it or not. It may cause him pain, but it arises within him. Similarly there arises in man through the relationship with the metals an enhanced human consciousness which becomes an Earth consciousness: Whilst thou hast formed on the Earth thy whole being from out of the heavens, by the descent thou hast separated the plants from thee. They are cast off from thee. Thou hast also cast off the animal nature. In the form of coagulated jelly or gristle thou didst will first of all that the animal nature should become a separate product from thyself. But in this case thou hast had to see how earlier Earth-forces have taken this work from thee and have fashioned the animal forms into another shape, which is a result of Earth creation. In this way, in a cosmic memory, one can see this as one's own experience just as one can see the case I have just given you as an experience of a short earthly life. One feels oneself, as has been said, united as a human being with all these things.
But all this is indeed connected with many other processes. I can only sketch for you the chief events. Many other things happened. For example, while all that I have described was taking place the whole atmosphere was filled with sulphur in a finely divided state. This finely divided sulphur united itself with other substances, and from the union there arose what I may call the parents of everything which is found today in the ores as pyrites, galena, native sulphide of zinc, etc. In this way all these substances developed in an older form, soft, thick, and wax-like. The body of the Earth was permeated with these things.
When these ores, these metallic substances, developed out of the general albuminous substance and formed the solid crust of the Earth the metals had really not much else to do, unless man made some use of them, than to ponder over what had happened in the past. We find them still doing this, bringing graphically to the mind of one who has inner vision all that has happened to the Earth. Now because he has, as his own, this cosmic or at least tellurian experience, he says: Through having cast off from thyself all this, through having cast off the primeval plant-form, a form which has since developed into the later plant-forms, through having cast off that which still exists in a more complicated way as the animal creation as I have described it, thou hast separated from thyself that which formerly hindered thee from having as man a will of thine own.
All that I have described to you was necessary. Man had to cast off these things from himself, just as today he has to get rid of perspiration and other matter. Man had to cast off these things so that he might no longer be a being in whom merely the gods willed, but so that he could be a being with a will of his own, certainly not yet a free will, but his own. All this was necessary as preparation for the earthly nature of man.
Through much else that happened everything gradually became transformed. As the metals were now within the Earth, the whole atmosphere changed also. It became a different atmosphere, much less sulphurous. Oxygen gradually gained the upper hand over the sulphur, whereas in the ancient times sulphur was of very great significance for the atmosphere of the Earth. The whole atmosphere of the Earth became transformed.
In this transformed atmosphere man could again cast off from himself something else. What man now separated off appeared as the successors of the earlier plants and earlier animals.
Gradually the later plant-forms developed. These had a kind of root by which they held on to a still extremely soft earthy substance. And there arose reptiles, lizard-like animals, more complicated creatures, impressions of which present-day geology can still discover. Of the most ancient creatures of which I have spoken nothing can be found. Only in that later period, when man for the second time separated off from himself more complicated forms, only then were there such creatures as I have been describing to you. First of all cloud-like structures, continually arising and disappearing, growing green and then fading away; soft animal-like forms which were really animals, forms which gradually consolidated themselves, had a life of their own and then disappeared into the common Earth-life. This was the case with all these beings. And out of all this arose something which condensed more into itself.
Among these animals was one which may be described as follows: it had a very large eye-like organ surrounded by a sort of aura. Near it was a kind of snout, which besides was elongated forward; then something like a lizard's body, but with powerful fins. Such a form as this arose, which now developed more firmness within itself. Animals arose, possessed of what I may just as well call wings as fins, because these animals were not marine creatures, for there was no sea as yet: there was a soft earthy mass and the still soft element of the surroundings from which only the sulphur had been partly removed. In these surroundings such an animal flew or swam; it was an activity between flying and swimming.
Besides these there were other animals which did not have this kind of limbs. They had limbs which already were formed more out of the forces of the Earth itself, and which remind us too of the limbs of the lower mammals of today.
Thus if starting from today we could wander back through time rather than through space into that period which unites the Lemurian epoch with that of Atlantis, a peculiar prospect would face us. We should see these gigantic flying lizards, with a sort of lantern on their heads which shines and also gives warmth. Down below is the soft morass-like Earth which has something extremely familiar about it, because it offers to the visitors of today a kind of odor, something between a musty smell and the smell arising from green plants, something between the two. Something seductive on the one hand and extremely sympathetic on the other would be offered by the mud of the soft Earth. In this morass too we find moving about as swamp-animals creatures which already have limbs more like those of our present lower animals, but spread out below them, something like the webbed feet of a duck but of course very much bigger. With these “shovels” they propel themselves in the swamp, and also rock about from side to side.
Man had to go through all this casting-off process so that he might be prepared for independent feeling during his Earth existence.
Thus we have first a vegetable-animal creation consisting in products separated off from man, which prepares the possibility for the earthly human being to become a willing being. If all this had remained in man it would have taken possession of his will. His will would then have become entirely a physical function. Through having separated these things from himself, the physical is put outside of him and the will assumes a psychic character.
In like manner, through this second creation feeling assumes a psychic character. Not until the middle of the Atlantean epoch do there develop out of these animals and plants the animals and plants that are similar to ours of today. The Earth at that time had reached a stage similar in appearance to what it is now. The same chemical substances as are recognized by the chemists of today were also in existence. Gradually there developed what we know as carbon, oxygen, the alkaline heavy metals, and the like. These things were developed by that time.
Thereby man was able to make the third separation from himself, viz., that which he today forms in his surroundings as the plant-animal world. And inasmuch as he separated this off from himself and inasmuch as there arose around him the present-day creation, he has become prepared for his life on Earth as a thinking being.
Thus we must say that humanity was not then divided as it is today into single individuals. There was one common humanity, still of a psychic and spiritual nature, sinking itself in the ether. For this common humanity came down from the cosmos with the ether which streamed down to the Earth from the cosmos.
Humanity then went through those events which you find described in my Outline of Occult Science. It came to the Earth, went away to the other planets, and came back again in the Atlantean epoch. This went on continually alongside the other happenings, for whenever something was separated off, humanity could not remain on the Earth. It had to go away in order to strengthen the inner forces, which were now of a much finer, more psychic nature. Then humanity came down again. You may read about these events in more detail in my Outline of Occult Science. They are as follows: Man, humanity, really belonged to the cosmos, and prepared for himself his own earthly environment by sending into the domain of the Earth those things which he separated from him, and which then became the other kingdoms of nature. They are now in the domain of the Earth, where man is surrounded by them. And now we can say: By sending these castoff products into the domain of the Earth man gradually developed within him that which furnished him as an earthly human being with willing, feeling, and thinking.
For that which man is today as a thinking, feeling, and willing being, which during the period between birth and death rests upon a physical organic foundation, has only gradually developed, and it is connected with those beings who, for the sake of human evolution, have separated in the course of time from the human kingdom. Owing to this separation they have metamorphosed themselves to their present forms.
You see from what has now been said that we do not speak merely in a general abstract way about this relationship with that which is of a metallic nature in the Earth. For when one is united with these metals, which conceal within them the memory of earthly events, one can then really speak of what one remembers, one really finds what I have related today.
When we travel back into those earlier times we find everything more fleeting, more quickly vanishing. Just contemplate the grandiose, the majestic, outlook which I have described to you. Those wax-like mobile silicate forms in which the outlined forms of the plant-world arise, which suck themselves full of the soft albuminous substance, and thereby present in the earthly environment to which we look up something which grows green and fades away again. Think over these things and you yourselves will say: In contrast with plants growing on the Earth today with firm roots and solid leaves, or compared with present-day trees with their hard trunks, all that is a fleeting picture. Just think how fleeting those earlier forms were compared with the oak-tree of today! (The oak itself is not proud of its firmness, but those living around it generally are, for they confound their own frequent weakness with the firmness of the oak.) If you compare the hardness of the oak of today with the substance of those ancient plant-forms, how feeble is their rising, how feeble their fading away, like shadows rising in the atmosphere, condensing, then vanishing away! Or if you compare this with a coarser case — say, a hippopotamus or an elephant of today, or any living mammal in its stout skin — compare these with the creatures of that early time, when as coagulated albumen they came out from the common albuminous mass and were seized on by the chalk, and through that process in somewhat denser fashion developed indications of bones in the animal nature of the Earth; how in this way they become somewhat denser and develop the first indications of a bony system. If you consider all this solidity of today compared with what the Earth once was, you will no longer be able to doubt that the further we go back, the more fleeting and volatile are the conditions.
We then go further back, to where there are only color-formations surging up, weaving and living, which arise and pass away. If you then take the description of the Old Sun, of Old Saturn, the predecessors of the Earth as you will find them given in my Outline of Occult Science you will say that all this is comprehensible when we know that we have to go back from the present time to an earlier condition. There this evanescent plant-formation absorbs the albumen and becomes something like a cloud-formation. At a still earlier period we find forms manifesting only in color, such as I have described when speaking of the Sun existence or the Saturn existence.
Thus gradually, if we follow what is physical backwards through time we get away from the gross and elephantine, through the finer physical to the spiritual, and in this way, by paying attention to actual fact, we get back to the spiritual origin of everything which belongs to the Earth. The Earth has its origin in the spiritual. That is the result of true vision, and I think it is a beautiful idea to be able to say: If you penetrate into the interior of the Earth, and let the hard metals tell you what they remember, they will relate the following: “We were once spread out in cosmic space in such a way that we were not physical substance at all, but in the spirit we were essence of color, weaving in the cosmos, arising and vanishing.” The memory of the metals of the Earth takes us back to that condition where the metals were cosmic colors, permeating one another, where the cosmos was in essence a kind of rainbow, a kind of spectrum, which then gradually differentiated itself and then became physical.
This is the point at which what I may call the merely theoretical impression communicated by the metallic element of the Earth passed over into the moral impression. For each metal tells us at the same time: “I originate from the expanses of space and from Earth-forms. I arise out of the heavenly kingdom. I am here drawn down and enchanted into the Earth. But I await my redemption, for I shall once again fill the universe with my being.” When in this way we learn to understand the speech of the metals, then gold tells us of the Sun, lead tells us of Saturn, copper tells us of Venus. And then these metals say to us: “Once upon a time we extended far out, copper to Venus, lead to Saturn. Today we are enchanted here. But when the Earth shall have so fulfilled her task that man shall have attained what only on the Earth he can attain, we shall extend out yonder again. We have been enchanted in this way so that man on the Earth might become a free being. When freedom has been purchased for man, then our disenchantment too can begin.”
This disenchantment has already begun. We have only to understand it. We must understand how the Earth, together with man, will develop further into the future.