Rudolf Steiner, Munich, August 24, 1910:
In the course of these lectures we have described how the earlier, preparatory stages of the Saturn, Sun and Moon evolutions have entered into the development of our earth. We must of course always bear in mind that what concerns us most of all, what is most important, is the development of man himself. We know that man is, so to say, the first-born of our whole planetary evolution. If we look back to Saturn, we are struck by the fact that in this state of weaving warmth we can speak only of the first rudiments of physical man, and that as yet nothing of what surrounds us today in animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms existed. These were added after the human kingdom was already there. Hence we have to ask ourselves how the story of creation according to Genesis is to be reconciled with the facts of human evolution.
We shall soon see that everything which today we seek to learn through spiritual investigation is fully confirmed. On a superficial reading of Genesis it might seem that man emerged for the first time as if suddenly fired from a pistol on the sixth day. Yet we know that the human kingdom is the all-important one, that the other kingdoms are, as it were, by-products of human incarnation. So we ask ourselves where the human being is to be found in the days before the sixth. If the earth develops as a kind of recapitulation of the Saturn, Sun and Moon evolutions we should expect to find the human being there all the time, we should expect to find him long before the sixth day. How is it that we find no earlier mention of man in the Genesis account?
First of all, let us observe that Genesis, when beginning to speak of the creation of man, uses the word “Adam,” [In the English Authorised Version the word “Adam” does not appear until Ch. II, v.19 — but in Hebrew the same word is used for “man” (as in Ch. I, v.26, onwards).] and in the ancient Hebrew priestly language the word “Adam” does correspond more or less to our word “man.” But we must learn to understand more exactly what “Adam” means. The word called forth in the soul of the Hebrew sage a mental picture which can perhaps be rendered in English as “the earthy one.” Thus man is pre-eminently the earth being, the consummation of all earth existence, the final fruit of earth incarnation. But everything which comes finally to maturity in the fruit is already inherent in the nature of the plant. We shall not discover man in the earlier “days” of creation, unless we are clear that in reality it is not the physical man that precedes the soul-spiritual, but vice versa. We have to think of the physical, earthly man of today much in the same way as we think of a small quantity of water which we cool down and allow to solidify into ice. We have to think of the soul-spiritual man as solidifying, condensing to earthly man, through the work of the Elohim on the sixth day of creation, just as water freezes into ice. Thus progress up to the sixth day consisted in a condensation of the soul-spiritual part of man to the solid earth man. On the preceding “days” we must not expect to find man in the region of what has been cast off and is developing supersensibly according to appropriate physical laws; we must expect to find him in a soul-spiritual condition. Thus when we say in the words of Genesis that on the first day there were present the inner mobile energy and the outwardly manifest, we should not on that first day expect to find man in the earth element, but as a soul-spiritual being in the periphery of the earth. As a soul-spiritual being he is being prepared for his earthly existence.
Today I want to correlate some of the findings of Spiritual Science with the Genesis account. When Genesis tells us that through cosmic musing the two complexes of inner stimulation and outward manifestation arise, what is it which is being prepared in the very first rudiments of man? When the spirit of the Elohim weaves and broods through these complexes, what part of man is in course of preparation? It is what in spiritual scientific terminology we call the sentient soul, which today we have to look upon as something inward. That is what is being prepared on the first day of creation up to the point where it says: Let there be light; and there was light. Within all this there lies in the spiritual periphery the sentient soul of man. To put it more clearly, we look for the sentient soul to begin with in the circumference of the earth, and we place it in the time usually described as the first “day” of creation. Thus in the circumference of the earth, where the Elohim and the Beings ministering to them unfold their work, we have to see a human soul-spiritual present in the spiritual atmosphere somewhat in the same way as today we see clouds in the airy atmosphere; and this is the human sentient soul. Then the evolution of man makes a further advance. On the second “day” of creation we have in the circumference of the earth the refining of the sentient soul into the intellectual or mind-soul. When the sound-ether strikes into the developing earth, when the upper masses of matter separate from the lower, there is, as part of the upper sphere, weaving in the upper sphere, a man consisting entirely of the rudiments of the sentient and the intellectual or mind-soul.
Then on the third “day” we have to think of man as advancing to the stage of the consciousness soul. On this third day, down below on the earth under the influence of the life-ether, verdant life unfolds in species form; the earth brings forth the foundations of plant life — of course, only supersensibly perceptible — and up above in the ether there weaves what we call the consciousness soul, together with the sentient and the intellectual or mind-souls.
Thus the soul-spiritual man hovers in the periphery of the developing earth. He is as it were within the substance of the several spiritual Beings. So far he has no independent existence. It is as if he were being fashioned as an organ within the Elohim, the Archai and so on — as though he were in their bodies as part of them. Hence it is natural that it is of these Beings that we are told, for at this stage of earth development, they alone are actual individualities! To describe their lot is to describe the lot of the rudimentary human beings as well. But you can easily see that if man is one day to people the earth, something like a gradual densification of the human being has to come about. This soul-spiritual element must gradually be clothed in a body. At the end of what is called in the Bible the third “day” of creation we have the rudiments of a soul-spiritual man which today we should call the consciousness soul, intellectual or mind-soul, and sentient soul. These have to be provided with an outer garment. Within this soul-spiritual, man has next to acquire the garment of the astral body.
Let us try to realise what this means. When today can we study the laws of the astral body, isolated from the physical body? Our astral bodies are separated from us when we are asleep, though the astral form is now quite different from what it was in the time of which Genesis speaks. When man sleeps he leaves his etheric and physical bodies lying in bed, and he himself is in his astral body, which hides within it his ego.
Remember the many things which I have told you in the course of years about the peculiar life of the astral body during sleep. From my Occult Science you will recall that when the astral body is outside the physical and etheric bodies, currents go out from it, it begins to make connections with its cosmic surroundings. When in the morning you come back from the sleeping to the waking state you have absorbed strengthening forces from the whole cosmos. During the night our astral body has been united, through its effluence, with the entire cosmos. It has been united with all the planetary Beings associated with our earth. It has radiated its effluence to Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and so on, and in these planetary Beings are the strengthening forces which give to the astral body what it needs to enable us on its return to continue our waking life in the physical and etheric bodies. During the night our astral bodies are diffused and enlarged to a cosmic existence. The clairvoyant sees the astral body quit the physical body when the human being falls asleep. But in point of fact that is an inadequate description. The astral body winds its way in spiral form out of the physical body. It moves as a cloud in spiral form. What we see is only the beginning of the currents which emanate from the astral body. They go out into cosmic space and gather forces, they drink in the forces of the planets. And if anyone tells you that the astral body is what can be seen by a clairvoyant hovering like a cloud in the vicinity of the physical body, it is not true. During the night the astral body is poured out over the whole of our solar system. During sleep it is united with the planetary Beings. That is the very reason why we call it the astral body. None of the interpretations of the term “astral body” coined in the Middle Ages is correct. We speak of the astral body because during sleep it is in inner union with the starry world, the astral world, because it rests in the world of the stars and absorbs their forces.
When you grasp this fact, which is confirmed by spiritual investigation, you will say to yourselves: “Then surely the first influences which formed this astral body must have streamed to man from the astral world, the world of the stars, and the world of the stars must have been present in the developing earth!” Thus when we say that on the fourth day of creation what had hitherto been soul-spiritual clothed itself in the laws and forces of the astral body, then on that same fourth day the stars, the astra, must have unfolded their activity in the periphery of the earth.
And the Genesis account confirms this. In the passage on the fourth day of creation, Genesis gives a description of the clothing of man — man still in the spiritual or astral periphery of the earth — with the astral body, with the activity of the starry world, which belongs primarily to our earth. And this description agrees with what we should express as “the human astral body is formed in accordance with its laws.” Thus here too we find a deeper meaning in complete harmony with what clairvoyant investigation has today to tell of modern man. We shall see that at the time of which Genesis speaks the astral body was not the same as our own astral bodies are during the night; but its laws were the same, and the activity which it developed was the same.
We shall expect that during the next period, which Genesis calls the fifth “day” of creation, a still further densification will take place. Man still remains a super-sensible etheric being. But a further densification does take place within the etheric. Man still does not make contact with the earth, he still belongs to the more spiritual-etheric circumference of the earth. Here we touch upon something which it is extraordinarily important for us to understand for the sake of the whole development of man in his relationship with the earth. When we turn to the kingdom next to man, to the animal kingdom, a question may arise which we have often touched upon before as to why animals become animals, and man becomes man. That man has evolved from the animal kingdom, as the crude materialism of today imagines, could not even be accepted by superficial ratiocination if it really understood itself. But nevertheless if we study the course of the earth's development, we have to admit that animals made their appearance before man became visible as an earth being. Before man could become man upon the earth, appropriate conditions had to be prepared for his densification. Suppose that man had become dense enough to become an earth being, such as he is today, on the fifth day of creation! If he had descended to the solid earth at that time, he could not have acquired the form and substance which in fact he did acquire. Earth conditions were not yet ripe enough to give man this form. Man had to wait in the spiritual realm and to allow the development of the earth to proceed by itself, because it could not yet give him the conditions suited to his earthly life. Man had first to mature within a psycho-spiritual sphere, a more etheric sphere. Had he not delayed his descent to the earth, he would have had to assume an animal form. It is in fact because the soul-spiritual being, the group-soul, of these animal forms, descended when the earth was not yet ready for the human form, when it could not provide the necessary conditions for the earthly human form, that animals became animals. Man had to wait above in the spiritual realm. The beings which became animals descended too soon for human incarnation. At the time of the fifth day of creation the earth was filled with air and water. Man could not fashion an earthly body for himself by descending into that condition. The animals, the group-souls of the animals, who did descend into it became beings of the air, and beings of the water. Thus while these group-souls were clothing themselves in bodies derived from the substances of air and water, man had to wait in the spiritual realm, in order to be able later to assume human form.
What would have happened if man had descended into dense matter on the fifth day? His physical humanity would not have had the forces bestowed upon it which came to him through the elevation of the Elohim into a unity. We have already spoken of this unifying of the Elohim and have said that Genesis indicates it in a most wonderful way by speaking first of the Elohim and later of Jahve-Elohim We have said that the characteristic of the Elohim was that they wove in the element of warmth. Warmth was their element; it was, as it were, the body through which they manifested themselves. When at the end of the period of development described in Genesis the Elohim had advanced so much further that we can speak of a unitary consciousness, a Jahve-Elohim, a change in their nature was involved. This change followed the same principle as changes in other hierarchical Beings You will remember that I spoke of the “body” of the Thrones. We have said that at the beginning of our planetary evolution their body was sacrificed to the warmth-element of Saturn. We have also said that during the Sun evolution the body of the Thrones was to be found in the element of air and in the Moon evolution in the element of water, and on the earth in the earth-element, the solid. For the Thrones this condensation of their nature further and further from the state of warmth to that of earth betokened a kind of promotion.
What was it that had to take place in order that the Elohim likewise should rise to a higher stage as the fruit of their creative activity? In accordance with the laws which govern such things they had to progress to the next degree of densification. Just as in primeval times, in the transition from Saturn to Sun, the Thrones progressed from the state of warmth to that of air, so we should expect the Elohim too, in attaining their unified consciousness, to progress from warmth to air. That, however, did not happen on the fifth day, but only at the end of the series of events described in the Genesis account of the creation. Had man been permitted to descend into the finer element of air on the fifth day, it would have happened to him as to the other beings who sought their bodily nature in the element of air. They became animals of the air, because they could not be given the requisite strength, the power of the Elohim risen to the stage of Jahve-Elohim, to enable them to fulfil the meaning of earth existence. Thus man had to wait. He was not permitted to adopt the air as his element. When the creatures of the air descended, he had to wait until the Elohim had become Jahve-Elohim. Only then could he be given the Jahve-Elohim strength. He had to be bodied forth in the weaving of Jahve-Elohim, in the air, but he was not to take this elementary airy existence into himself until he could receive it from Jahve-Elohim. This the Genesis account conveys in a very subtle way; what it virtually says is that man grew ripe in a more spiritual-etheric existence, and only sought denser embodiment after the Elohim had advanced to the stage of Jahve-Elohim, after Jahve-Elohim was able to form the earthly nature of man by breathing into him the air. It was the efflux of the Elohim themselves, now grown to Jahve-Elohim, which streamed into man with the air.
There again we have a description in Genesis which wonderfully accords with the spiritual investigation of today. And in Genesis we find a theory of evolution compared with which the proud doctrines of today are mere fantasy. For Genesis guides us to the inwardness of creation, shows us what has to take place in the super-sensible before man can advance to sensible existence.
Thus while the other beings had already condensed physically in the region of air and water; man had still to remain in etheric existence, and it was in fact his condensation to the stage of the etheric body that took place in the period alluded to as the fifth day of creation. On the fifth day we still do not find man among the physical earth beings. It is not until the sixth day that we find man actually among the earth beings. It is then that he is received by the developing earth; what we call the physical body came into existence on the sixth day of creation.
But we must still emphasise that it would be quite wrong to believe that you would have been able to see with your eyes or touch with your hands the man who came into existence on the sixth day. If a man with the eyes of today had been at all possible at that time, he would not have been able to perceive the man who then came into existence. The man of today is too much inclined to think materialistically. Hence he at once thinks of the newly created man on the sixth day as a being just like himself. Man was certainly there in a physical form — but then even the vibrations of heat are physical. If you come into a space and find there differentiated currents of warmth not so dense as gas, you must still call that physical existence, and there was such physical existence on Saturn, even though only in the form of warmth. Thus man on the sixth day was not to be found in solid fleshly form. He was to be found in physical form, as an earth being, but only in the first manifestation of the physical, as a man of warmth. When that event occurred, so beautifully expressed in the words And God said, Let us make man, anyone sensitive to warmth would have perceived certain differentiations in the substance of warmth. If he had walked over the earth, which was at that time covered with vegetation and animal life in air and water — all at the species stage — he might have said to himself: “Strange! in certain places I get impressions of warmth — not of anything that has reached a gaseous condition — pure warmth-impressions.” There are differentiations of warmth in the periphery of the earth, beings of warmth flit hither and thither. Man was as yet not a gaseous being; he consisted only of warmth. Try to think away all the solid part of you, all the fluid, all the gaseous element, and to imagine only that part of the man you are today which pulsates in the warmth of your blood. Imagine your blood-heat apart from anything else, and then you have what came into being when the Elohim spoke the creative word: Let us make man. And the next stage of densification did not come until after the days of creation; the influx of what Jahve-Elohim was able to give, the inbreathing of air, did not take place until after the sixth day of creation.
Man will not understand his own origin until he makes up his mind to think of his descent as follows. At the beginning of the development of the earth there was a soul-spiritual condition; then came an astral condition; then an etheric condition, and then came the physical states, first warmth and then air. Even as regards the point of time when, after the six “days” of creation, we are told And the Lord God ... breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, unless we think of man at that moment as consisting only of warmth and air — so long as we believe that a man of flesh and blood was already there — we have not understood our own origin. The coarser is derived from the finer, not the finer from the coarser. It is alien to present-day consciousness to think in this way, but it is the truth.
When we have grasped this, then we shall understand why it is that in so many accounts of the creation the incarnation of man is represented as a descent from the periphery of the earth. When the Bible itself, after the “days” of creation, speaks of Paradise we must look for the deeper meaning behind this, and only Spiritual Science will enable us to understand the truth. To anyone who knows the truth, it is really very odd that the commentators should have argued as to whether Paradise was situated on earth at this spot or that from which mankind spread abroad. It is only too clear in many accounts of creation — including the one in the Bible — that Paradise was not situated upon earthly soil, that it was lifted above the earth, was so to say in the heights of the clouds, and that while man lived in Paradise he remained a being of warmth and air. At that time man did not actually walk about the earth on two legs; that is a materialistic fantasy. Thus even after the end of the “days” of creation, we have to think of man as a being belonging not to the ground, but to the periphery of the earth.
How then was he brought down to the surface of the earth? How did the further densification from the condition into which Jahve-Elohim had placed him come about? Here we come to something described pretty fully in my Occult Science; we come to what we call the Luciferic influence. To express more precisely what we mean by this, we must imagine that the Beings whom we have described as Luciferic practically poured themselves into the human astral body, so that after man had been built up through all the forces we have hitherto described, he received into himself the Luciferic influence. We shall understand what this means if we say that man's life of wish, of desire, everything anchored in the astral body, became permeated with the Luciferic element, hence became more violent, more passionate, more urged by greed, more self-centred; in short what we today call egotism, the inclination to be self-absorbed and self-isolated, the preoccupation with securing one's own inner comfort — all that entered into man with the Luciferic influence. Everything good or bad which can be classed as a permeation by inner comfort or satisfaction entered into man with the Luciferic influence. It was, to begin with, an alien influence. Out of the astral body as it had been hitherto, as it had been formed by the currents which streamed into it, another astral body now came into existence, one permeated by the Luciferic influence. The result was that the body of warmth and air contracted, condensed further. It was only then that the man of flesh came into being. It was only then that this further densification occurred. The man of pre-Luciferic times was to be found in the elementary existence of warmth and air; the Luciferic influence insinuated itself into the fluid and solid part of man, it lives in all that is solid and liquid. It is not at all a figure of speech, but literally describes the situation when I say that through the contraction of the human body brought about by the Luciferic influence man became heavier, sank down out of the periphery to the surface of the earth. That was the expulsion from Paradise. Man acquired for the first time the force of gravity. It was the Luciferic influence which brought him down to earth, whereas he had hitherto dwelt in its periphery. Thus the Luciferic influence has to be reckoned among the real formative forces of man.
We find then a remarkable parallelism between descriptions derived solely from spiritual investigation and those in the Bible. Notice nevertheless how in my Occult Science I deliberately kept out all the things that would have occurred to one so easily if one had wanted to introduce anything out of the Genesis account. In the description given in Occult Science I was careful to guard against that. I relied solely upon spiritual investigation. Now in a certain passage of that book we come to a description of the Luciferic influence given from quite a different aspect. But when we have come to that, we have reached the very period of time which is described in the Bible as man's temptation by the serpent, by Lucifer. We discover the parallel subsequently. Just as gravity, electricity and magnetism are forces which in a coarser way play their part today in the formation of our earth, so also the development of the earth could not have gone forward without the Luciferic influence. We have to reckon it as one of the essential earth-building forces. Hence oriental accounts of the creation, though not with such delicacy as that of the Bible, have also placed Paradise in the periphery of the earth and not on the earth's surface, and they conceive of the expulsion from Paradise as a descent from the periphery to the earth itself. Here also, if we know how to interpret what is said, we find complete agreement between spiritual investigation and the Bible.
But now let us consider yet another event. We have stressed the point that things are not so easy for the spiritual investigator as they are for the sort of science which works on the rough principle that “in the night all cows are grey,” and traces back the most varied events to the same cause. The spiritual investigator has to see in cloud formation something quite different from the formation of water on the surface of the earth. We have spoken of the Cherubim as the directing powers in cloud formation, and of the Seraphim as the directing powers in the lightning flash that issues from the clouds. If now we look upon the expulsion from Paradise as really referring to a descent from the periphery, we are describing almost word for word how man fell through his own weight, and how he had to leave behind him the forces and the Beings who form the clouds and the lightning — the Cherubim with the flaming sword. Man falls from the earth's periphery, out of the region where the Cherubim hold sway with their fiery swords of lightning. There we have a spiritual scientific version that confirms almost word for word the account of the expulsion from Paradise according to which the Godhead placed the Cherubim with the flame of the whirling sword before the gate of Paradise. When you realise this it becomes almost palpable that those ancient seers who gave us Genesis gazed with full powers of seership into the life of man weaving in the etheric heights, before he fell from the regions where the Seraphim and the Cherubim hold sway. So realistic are the Bible descriptions! They are not just similes or crude symbolism; they are the direct findings of clairvoyant consciousness.
Men today misunderstand the conceptions of ancient times. The Bible is criticised on all hands as if it were naively saying: “Paradise was a large garden planted with beautiful trees; lions and tigers roamed about, mingling with the human beings.” Well, it is easy to criticise, and one flippant critic has gone so far as to ask what would have happened to a man who was naive enough to stretch out his hand to one of these lions. If someone first invents a fantastic picture of something never intended by Genesis, it is easy to criticise it. This kind of outlook has only arisen in recent centuries. A Schoolman of the twelfth century would be astonished, if he could come back, to hear what he himself is supposed to have said about the Bible. It would never have occurred to a Schoolman to have such notions about the Bible as are prevalent today. Men could soon find this out if they really wanted to learn. If we studied Scholasticism properly we should soon see, what is clearly expressed in its writings, that it had an entirely different outlook. Even if there was no longer any consciousness that the Bible is a record of clairvoyant investigation, there was nevertheless still something very different from the materialistic and crude exegesis that came in with the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It would never have occurred to anyone in the early centuries of the Middle Ages to think like that. Today it is very easy to criticise the Bible, as long as one ignores the fact that the ideas under attack were only born a few centuries ago. Those who inveigh against the Bible the most vehemently are fighting a fantastic invention of the human mind, not the Bible; they are shadow-boxing. It is the task of Spiritual Science, by communicating its findings, to point once more to the true meaning of the Bible, and so clear the way for the tremendous impact it should make upon our souls when we learn to understand what resounds to us so impressively from ancient times.
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