Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Genesis: Secrets of Creation. Lecture 6: Elemental Existence and the Spiritual Beings Behind It. Jehovah-Elohim
Rudolf Steiner, Munich, August 22, 1910:
During these lectures I shall try to throw light on the Genesis story of creation from many different aspects. Of course you must never lose sight of our essential preoccupation as Anthroposophists, which is with the facts of spiritual life. All our lectures are concerned first and foremost with the circumstances of spiritual life, of spiritual evolution. So too what is of primary importance as regards the Genesis story is to ascertain what were the super-sensible events, the super-sensible facts, which preceded the visible course of our earth's evolution. Only after that do we think it specially important to find confirmed in ancient documents of various ages and various peoples what we have first established independently of any documents, out of spiritual investigation itself. It helps us to acquire the proper feeling, the right attitude of reverence for what resounds in our hearts from far-off ages. We are able to come to an understanding with those times, which we ourselves have lived through in other bodies; we are able to form a link with what must have affected us in past epochs. This is how we have to understand the underlying purpose of this course of lectures.
We tried in the preceding lectures to form an idea as to how spiritual Beings, whom we know from Spiritual Science, are to be rediscovered in Genesis. We have already partly succeeded. We have borne in mind throughout that in what confronts us in the outer world, even in what we meet in the lower stages of clairvoyant consciousness — and in Genesis we have to do with facts of clairvoyant consciousness all the time — we are dealing with maya, with illusion; we have borne in mind that our usual interpretation of the sense-world, as it presents itself primarily to our faculty of knowledge, is maya, or illusion. That is a statement which is familiar to anyone who has anything to do with Spiritual Science. Moreover, the fact that the lower region of clairvoyance, all that has to do with the etheric and astral worlds, in a higher sense also belongs to the sphere of deception, cannot remain hidden from anyone who has familiarised himself with the spiritual scientific outlook for any length of time. We strike, as it were, the true ground of existence — so far as it is attainable by us — only when we have pushed beyond these regions to its deeper source. We must always bear this in mind. And we must not be content to voice it as a theory, but the conviction must pass over into our flesh and blood, that in clinging to external existence we are surrendering to illusion. On the other hand, to ignore external existence, to prize it too lightly, is also one of the great illusions into which men can fall.
Let us consider the elementary existence which has been so often mentioned in these lectures, and which is the nearest realm attainable behind our physical existence, behind what we perceive with our senses. Spiritual Science characterises it as the existence lying behind earth, water, air and fire or warmth, light, sound-ether and life-ether. We try to acquire ideas about the nature of earth, water, air, and so on, and to grasp them firmly. We have not done very much if, with a certain intellectual superiority which can easily become rife among anthroposophical devotees, we just say “that is all maya, illusion”; for it is nevertheless through this maya that the real Beings reveal themselves. And if we scorn to look at the manifestations, if we scorn to get to know the tools and instruments through which they reveal themselves, we have no means of making existence comprehensible. We must be clear that when we say “water,” “air,” and so on, we are referring to expressions, to manifestations, of real spiritualities, but that if we refuse to have anything to do with this maya, we can acquire no ideas of what lies behind it.
Now let us consider the nature of the earth element. We know well by now that there was no question of such an earth condition during the Saturn, Sun or Moon evolutions. We know that evolution had to wait, we know that it was not until the time of our own planetary existence that the earth element could be added to the warmth of Saturn, to the aeriform element of the Sun, and to the water element of the Moon. We know that each advance in evolution can only take place through the work of spiritual Beings. To include what we today call our physical body, the lowest member of our human being, and to give it its place in this elemental existence, we may say that from the first rudiments which it developed on Saturn it too has struggled through all these conditions. Thus we have in our own outer physical bodies something of which we can say that it has passed through an existence in pure warmth, an existence as a body of air, an existence as a body of water, and has risen to an earth existence. We know too who were the Beings on Saturn who participated in the first stages of the work on the human physical body. You will remember that I said in Occult Science — and I have frequently said it elsewhere — that to begin with, certain spiritual Beings worked on Saturn who had passed through their lower stages of evolution in a long distant past, and who were already so far advanced that they were able to sacrifice their own corporeality to supply the foundation, the basic substance for Saturn. In the order of the hierarchies these spiritual Beings are none other than those whom we call the Spirits of Will. Into the substance thus provided, which had been offered as a sacrifice by the Spirits of Will, the other hierarchies then worked. Into this substance the Spirits of Personality worked, and imprinted in it their own “humanity.” It was this will-substance which worked in Saturn as the warmth element, and it was in this that the first rudiments of the human physical body were formed.
But you must not think that such Beings as the Spirits of Will finished their work at a specific stage. Although they performed their main task on Saturn, yet they have continued to work during the whole course of development on Sun, Moon and earth. They have retained a certain connection with the substance for which they made their self-sacrifice. We saw that during the Sun evolution the warmth element transformed itself in the downward direction, that is, in the direction of densification, into the element of air. Such a process as the densification of warmth into air, which we can follow in its external manifestation — such a process is just maya; it gives us the illusion of densification. Within the process itself lies spiritual weaving, spiritual being, spiritual activity. And anyone who wishes to get to the bottom of things has to ask himself which of the hierarchies has brought it about that out of the more rarefied warmth-substance, the denser air comes into being. It is those very Spirits of Will who sacrificed the warmth-substance out of themselves who have brought this about! We may describe their activity by saying that during the Saturn evolution they were so advanced as to be able to allow their own substance to flow out as warmth, so advanced as to be able to offer their own substance as a sacrifice, so advanced that their fire streamed into the planetary existence of Saturn. Then during the Sun evolution they condensed this, their fire, into the gaseous element. But it was also they who during the Moon evolution condensed their gaseous element to water. During the earth evolution they have further condensed their watery element into the earth element, into solid. Thus, when we look upon the solid matter in the world, we have to say to ourselves that in this solid matter forces are at work which alone make its existence possible, forces whose very being flowed out from Saturn as warmth and whose effluence has become denser and denser until it has now reached the solid state, held together by their power. And if we would know who it is that brings this about, if we would look beyond the maya of solid matter, we should have to say that behind all this solid matter which we encounter there work and weave the Spirits of Will, the Thrones. Thus the Spirits of Will are still present in earth existence.
What we are told in Genesis now appears to us in a new light. When we are told that what is expressed in Genesis as bara is a kind of meditative activity of the Elohim, we have to say that through their meditation the Elohim recreated, as out of memory, something which I have described as a complex of existence. But in a certain way there happened to the Elohim what happens to us when we try to create something out of memory, though we, of course, unfold our activity at a much lower level. Let me give you an example. A man goes to sleep at night. His world of thought and feeling sinks into oblivion, he passes into the condition of sleep. Suppose that the last thought he had before he fell asleep in the evening was of a rose beside him. This thought sinks into oblivion. In the morning the thought of the rose emerges again. Even if the rose no longer remained by him, the thought would be there. You must distinguish between two things. The one is the calling up in memory of the idea of the rose, which could occur even if the rose had been taken away. But if the rose is still there, he also perceives the actual rose. That is the other thing. In the same way you should distinguish two things in what I have described as the cosmic meditation of the Elohim. When we are told that on the third “day” of creation a cosmic meditation took place, that the Elohim made a division between the fluid and the solid, that they separate off the solid and call it earth, in this we must certainly think of the cosmic act of meditation of the Elohim from whom this creative thought springs; but in what arises to meet their musing we have to think of the Spirits of Will at work, now bringing forth once more the objective in its own substantial nature. Thus work the Spirits of Will, and so they have worked from the very beginning in everything of an earth nature.
You must make yourselves familiar with such ideas. You must get used to the thought that in what lies nearest to us, and which we often regard as very lowly, we sometimes meet very high and exalted Beings. It is easy to say of the solid element that it is only matter. Perhaps some may be tempted to say that it is no concern of the spiritual investigator — that matter is a low level of existence. Why should we bother with it? We pass beyond and above matter into the spiritual. Anyone who thinks in this way forgets that through countless ages high, exalted spiritual Beings have worked in the object of his contempt to bring it into this solid state. Actually, when we penetrate through external matter, through the elementary covering of the earth, to what has made this earth covering solid, it would be natural to feel the deepest reverence for the exalted Beings we call the Spirits of Will, who have laboured so long in this earth element to build up the solid ground upon which we tread, and which we ourselves bear within us in the earthly constituents of our physical bodies. It is these Spirits of Will, whom in Christian esotericism we also call the Thrones, who have in fact constructed — or rather condensed — the solid ground upon which we walk. The esotericists who gave names to what the Spirits of Will brought forth within our earth existence called these Spirits Thrones, because they built thrones upon which we are all the time being supported, as upon a solid ground, and upon which all the rest of our earth existence continues to base itself as upon firm seats. These ancient expressions contain something worthy of tremendous respect, something to which our feeling can fully respond.
If we now reascend from the solid to the watery condition, we may reflect that it took longer to build up and densify the earth element than the watery. Hence we have to look for the fundamental forces of the watery element in Beings of a lower hierarchy. For the condensation of the watery element, as it is at work around us in the elementary state, it needed only the activity of the Spirits of Wisdom, the Kyriotetes, the Dominions. Thus behind the solid basis we see the Spirits of Will, and, not behind physical water, but behind the forces of fluidity, we have to see the activity of the Spirits of Wisdom or Kyriotctes. When we ascend to the airy element, here we have to see a still lower hierarchy at work. In the airy formations around us, to the extent that they are brought about by forces lying behind them, we have also to see the effect of the activity of certain spirits of the hierarchies. Just as the Spirits of Wisdom work in the water nature, so the Spirits of Movement — the Dynameis, the Mights, as we are accustomed to call them in Christian esotericism — are at work in the aeriform. And when we come to the warmth nature, to the next stage of rarefaction, then it is the next lower hierarchy, the Spirits of Form — the Exusiai — who live and weave within it, the very spirits whom we have been speaking of for days as the Elohim. Up to the present we have, from quite a different direction, characterised the Spirits of Form as the Spirits who brooded in the warmth element. When we trace the order of the hierarchies in the downward direction from the Spirits of Will, through the Spirits of Wisdom and the Spirits of Movement, we come back to our Elohim, to the Spirits of Form. You see how everything fits together, if the threads are woven in the right way. If you now try to bring sensitive and perceptive feeling into all this, you will say that behind all we see around us through our senses there lies an elementary existence — an earth element, but within this element in truth there live the Spirits of Will; a fluid element, in which in truth live the Spirits of Wisdom; an airy element, within which in truth live the Spirits of Movement; and a warmth element, wherein in truth live the Spirits of Form, the Elohim.
We must not think that we can make a clear separation between these spheres, that we can draw hard and fast boundaries between them. Our entire earth subsists in the fact that watery, aeriform and solid are working one within another, and that warmth permeates everything. We find warmth everywhere within the other stages of elementary existence. Hence we can also say that we find everywhere the activity of the Elohim, the real force behind warmth; it has poured itself out into everything. Although it necessarily required the activities of the Spirits of Will, the Spirits of Wisdom, the Spirits of Movement in order to display itself, nevertheless throughout earth evolution this element of warmth, which is the manifestation of the Spirits of Form, permeated all the lower stages of existence. Thus in the solid element we shall find not just the substantial basis, the body of the Spirits of Will, but the body of the Spirits of Will permeated and interwoven by the Elohim themselves, by the Spirits of Form.
Now let us try to find the outer expression in the sense-world of what we have just been talking about. We have been describing what is in the super-sensible — an interweaving of the Spirits of Will, the Thrones, with the Spirits of Form, the Elohim. That is something which lies in the super-sensible. But everything super-sensible casts its shadow into the sense-world. What is the shadow in this case? That which in effect constitutes the body, the phenomenal existence, of the Spirits of Will is matter, outspread solid matter. The commonly accepted idea of matter is illusion. When the seer turns his attention to the places where matter is supposed to lead its dubious existence, he does not find the fantastic apparition of physical matter, for that is an empty dream. Matter as conceived by the physicists is pure fantasy. So long as these concepts are merely used as calculating devices it is all right. But when men think that they have discovered something self-existent and real, then they are dreaming. The theories of modern physics are in fact dreams. In so far as physicists take note of facts, describe facts — the real and actual which the eye can see, and what can be deduced from that by calculation — they are dealing with reality. But as soon as they begin to speculate about atoms and molecules, as if these were simply material entities, then they begin to spin a dream-universe; and one which reminds us of Felix Balde's ducats in my Mystery Play, when he says in the temple: “Fancy telling a man from whom you wanted to buy something: ‘I won't pay for it in solid coin, but I promise to condense some ducats out of some mist!’” This crude simile really does give a fair idea of the sort of physical theory that gaily assumes whole universes to have been constructed out of cosmic mist. It is pure fantasy to take the existence of atoms, as envisaged today, to be real. So long as atoms are looked upon merely as counters, or shorthand notes for what the senses actually show, we remain on solid ground. If one wants to penetrate behind the sense-perceptible basis, then one has to rise to the spiritual, and then one reaches the living movement of a basic substance which is none other than the body of the Thrones, permeated by the activity of the Spirits of Form. And how is that projected into our sense-world? In the sense-world it becomes the expanse of solid matter, but matter which is at no stage amorphous. The amorphous, the formless, only results from the fact that all existence which tends towards form gets crushed or ground down. None of the dust which we find in the world is dust by natural tendency. It is stuff which has been worn away. Matter has the tendency to take form, to become crystalline. Solid matter tends towards the form of the crystal. So we can say that it is the substance of the Thrones and of the Elohim which compresses itself into our sense-existence to become revealed as the solid matter we see around us. In the act of making manifest what we call matter, it announces itselfas the essential Being of the Thrones; in so far as this basic substance takes on form, takes on shape, it announces itself as the external revelation of the Elohim.
Look with what spiritual insight names were given in ancient times! The seers of old said to themselves: “If we look upon the material substance around us, it speaks to us in the Being of the Thrones; but it is permeated by an element of force which tries to bring it all into form, hence the name Spirits of Form.” In all these names there is a hint of the reality they stand for. If we look at the tendency towards crystalline form around us, we have at a lower level a manifestation of the forces which weave and hold sway in the substance of the Thrones as the Spirits of Form, as the Elohim themselves. That is their field of action. They are the smiths, forging in their warmth element the crystalline forms of the different earths and metals, out of the formless matter of the Spirits of Will. They are the Spirits who in their activity of warmth at the same time constitute the form principle in existence.
When we look at things in this way, we gaze into the living, moving being which stirs beneath our existence. And in this way we must accustom ourselves to see maya or illusion in all that we encounter in outer life. But we must not stop short at the empty theory that the external world ismaya. To say that gets us nowhere. It only has meaning when we can penetrate through all the details of that maya to the real being behind it. Then it is useful. So let us accustom ourselves to see in all that happens around us something which, though certainly illusion, is at the same time truth. An appearance is precisely an appearance. As such it is a fact; but we do not understand it if we stop short at its apparition. We can only appreciate it and give it its proper value as appearance, if we go on beyond the appearance.
In our modern abstract way of looking at things everything gets mixed up. The seers of old could not confuse things in this way. They could not be content to see everywhere the same superficial forces as the modern physicist sees, who insists on embracing meteorology as well as physics within his sphere. For who today doubts that the same forces which are at work in elementary life — in the solid, the fluid and so on — are active too within the atmosphere, when water masses into cloud. I know quite well that the modern physicist cannot help assuming that, as physicist, he can aspire to be a meteorologist too, and that for him nothing makes sense unless he applies the same laws to the formation of the clouds around our earth as he applies to things on the earth. To the seer things are not so simple as that. As soon as things are traced back to their spiritual sources, the same thing is not seen everywhere. Different forces are at work when a gas condenses to liquid actually on earth, and when the gaseous, vaporous tendency in the environment of the earth forms watery cumuli. When the seer contemplates the way in which water arises in the atmosphere around us, he cannot say that it comes into being in the same way as on the ground; he cannot say that the water hovering above us comes into existence in the same way as the water which condenses in the soil, on the ground. For the truth is that the Beings who play their part in cloud formation are different from those who are at work in the formation of water on the earth. What I have just been saying as to the participation of the hierarchies in our elementary existence only applies on the earth from its centre point up to the surface where we ourselves are; the same forces do not extend as far as the formation of the clouds. There other Beings are at work. The scientific theory derived from modern physics is based on a very simple hypothesis. First it discovers certain physical laws, and then it says that these laws apply to the whole of existence. It overlooks all the differences in the different spheres of existence. It acts on the principle that in the night all cows are grey; but things are not the same everywhere, they are very different in different spheres!
Anyone who has become aware through clairvoyant investigation that on our earth the Spirits of Will or the Thrones hold sway in the earth element, the Spirits of Wisdom in the element of water, the Spirits of Movement in the aeriform element, the Elohim in the warmth, gradually attains to the knowledge that in the gathering of the clouds, in that unique process which goes on around the earth wherein the watery vapour becomes water, Beings belonging to the hierarchy of the Cherubim are at work. Thus in the solid matter of our elementary earth existence, we see a co-operation of the Elohim with the Thrones. In the element of air, in which the Spirits of Movement hold sway, we sec the Cherubim too at work in order that the water mounting upward from the realm of the Spirits of Wisdom may be enabled to accumulate into clouds. In the environment of our earth, the Cherubim hold sway as truly as do the Thrones, the Spirits of Wisdom and the Spirits of Movement within the elementary existence of our earth. And now if we look to the moving being of these cloud formations, we find hidden within them something still deeper, which only occasionally reveals itself — the thunder and lightning which bursts forth from them. This is not something which comes from nowhere. The seer knows that the Spirits whom we call the Seraphim move and have their being in this activity.
Within the limits of our earth sphere, if we include the atmosphere around us, we have now found every one of the hierarchical ranks. Thus, in what we experience with our senses we see the manifestation of hierarchical activity. It would be utter nonsense to regard the lightning flashing forth from the cloud as the same thing as what one sees when one strikes a match. Quite different forces are at work when the element of electricity, which prevails in the lightning, comes forth out of matter. There the Seraphim are at work.
Thus we have rediscovered the totality of the hierarchies in the earth's environment, just as we can find them in the cosmos without. The activity of these hierarchies is extended to all that we find in our immediate environment.
When you go through the pages of Genesis, when you contemplate the mighty course of world evolution depicted there, you discover that it is a recapitulation of the previous stages of evolution, a recapitulation of what evolved during the Saturn, Sun and Moon evolutions, and that finally man emerges as the crowning achievement of evolution. We have to understand from this Genesis account that the whole being and activity of the hierarchies is engaged in what is there taking place, that all is concentrated upon this last product of creation, upon this super-sensible being of whom it is said: The Elohim made a decision, saying Let us make man. In order to do this they wove together all their separate talents into one common activity. All the capacities which they had brought over from earlier stages they combined together, so as at length to produce man. Thus all the hierarchies which preceded that of man — hierarchies to which we give the names Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Spirits of Wisdom, Spirits of Movement, Spirits of Form, Archai or Spirits of Personality, Fire-Spirits or Archangels, and Angels — moved and had their being in this existence; and if we follow the Genesis account up to the crowning of the structure on the sixth “day” of creation with the appearance of man, if we pass in review the whole of the weaving essence of pre-human earthly evolution, we find all the different hierarchies already there. All these hierarchies had to work together to prepare for what at last emerges in man.
Thus we may venture to say that the seer or seers who were responsible for the Genesis account were aware that all the hierarchies we have mentioned had to work to make preparation for man. But they must also have been aware that for the creation of man himself, for the crowning fulfilment of this entire hierarchical order, help had to come from yet another quarter, from a source in a way still higher than any of these hierarchies. Thus we look up beyond the Seraphim to a divine Being unknown, only dimly sensed. Let us follow up the activity of some member of the hierarchical order, say of the Elohim; so long as they had not decided to put the finishing touch to their work by fashioning man, it sufficed for them to work in harmony with the other hierarchies up to the Seraphim. But then help had to come from a realm to which we can only raise our spiritual gaze in dim apprehension, it has to come from a sphere really above that of the Seraphim. For the Elohim to raise their creative activity to these dizzy heights, for them to obtain help from this source, something had to happen of which we must try to grasp the significance. They had, so to say, to grow beyond themselves. They had to acquire a greater ability than was theirs during the preliminary stages. To crown their work they had to unfold still higher powers. The Elohim, as a group, had to grow beyond themselves. Let us try to get an idea of how such a thing could happen. Let us start with an illustration from everyday life, to help us to form some idea of this. Take the development of a human being.
When we look at a tiny child on the threshold of earthly life, we know that a unitary consciousness has not yet been developed in him. It is only after some time that a child even utters the “I” which holds consciousness together. It is only then that the contents of his soul-life become knit together in a conscious unity. The human being grows to a higher stage through the bringing together of activities which in the baby are still decentralised. Thus, in the human being this concentration signifies an advance to a higher level. We can think of the progressive development of the Elohim as analogous to this. During the preparatory stages of man's development they practised a certain activity. This activity has taught them something, has helped to raise them to a higher stage. They have now acquired a certain unified consciousness as a group. That is as much as to say that they have not remained simply a group but have become a unity, and a unity possessing real being. What I am here saying is extremely important. Hitherto I have only been able to say that the several Elohim each had his own special capacity. Each of them was able to contribute something to the common resolve, the common picture of the human being they wished to form; and at the same time this human being was only an idea, upon which they could co-operate. To begin with, it was not real. Something real was first brought into existence after they had created the common product. But in the course of this work they themselves developed to a higher stage, developed their own unity to a reality, so that they were no longer seven, but a sevenfold whole. We can now speak of an “Elohimhood,” which reveals itself in a sevenfold way. This unity of the Elohim had first to come into being. It is something to which the Elohim work themselves up. The Bible is aware of this. The Bible is acquainted with the idea that the Elohim were first separate members of a group, and that they then form themselves into a unity; that to begin with they co-operate as members of a group, and later become directed out of a unified organism. This real unity, in which the Elohim act as the organs of a body, the Bible calls Jahve-Elohim.
That gives us a much deeper conception of Jahve, of Jehovah, than has so far been possible. That is why the Bible begins by speaking simply of the Elohim, and then, when the Elohim themselves have reached a higher stage, when they have advanced to a unity, it speaks of Jahve-Elohim. That is the deeper cause of the sudden emergence of the name of Jahve at the end of the work of creation.
This shows how necessary it is to have recourse to occult sources if one wishes to understand things. What does the biblical criticism of the nineteenth century make of this? It says: “We find in one passage the name Elohim, in another the name Jahve. Clearly the two passages derive from different religious traditions; we have to distinguish between what has come down from a people who worshipped the Elohim, and what has been handed down by a people who worshipped Jahve. And whoever wrote the account of the Creation which we possess merged the two traditions. We must separate them again.” This line of research has gone so far that today we have Rainbow Bibles, with what is said to derive from the one source printed in blue, and what comes from the other in red. There are such Bibles! Only, unfortunately, the division has to be so made that part of a sentence has to be blue and the other part red, because the first clause is said to derive from one people, and the second from the other. It is astonishing that the main and subordinate clauses should fit so beautifully together that it only needed a collator to join up the two traditions! Immense industry has been expended upon this biblical exegesis of the nineteenth century, perhaps more than on any other scientific or historical research; and it fills us with melancholy and a deep sense of tragedy. The very thing which should enlighten humanity upon the most spiritual matters has lost its connection with spiritual sources.
It is as if someone were to say: “Of course, if we compare the passage where Ariel speaks in the second part of Faust with the doggerel in the first part, the style is quite different. It is not possible that the same man could have written both, and Goethe must therefore be a mythical figure.” Through being cut off from occult sources, the fruit of this immense labour, this devoted industry, is worth just about as much as the conclusion of someone who denied the existence of Goethe because he could not believe that two such different things as the style of Faust in its first and second parts could emanate from the same man. Here we get a glimpse into one of the deep tragedies of human life; here we see how necessary it is that minds should again turn to the sources of spiritual life. Spiritual knowledge is only possible when men again seek for the living spirit. They will do so, for to do so is an irresistible urge of the human soul. And the whole strength of our anthroposophical inspiration rests upon our confidence that there is something in the human soul which draws men's hearts to seek once more for a connection with spiritual sources and which will lead them to understand the true basis of religious documents. Let us imbue ourselves with this confidence and we shall reap the true fruits of a theme which should guide us into the spiritual life.