Friday, March 26, 2021
The inner aspect of the first embodiment of the Earth
A lecture given by Rudolf Steiner in Berlin October 31, 1911:
If we wish to pursue the studies we carried on in our lectures last year, it will be necessary to acquire still other concepts and views than those that have so far been discussed. We know that what we have to say about the Gospels and other spiritual documents of humanity would not suffice if we did not presuppose the evolution of our whole cosmic system, which we describe as the embodiments of our planet itself, through the Saturn-existence, the Sun-existence, the Moon-existence, on to our present Earth-existence. Anyone who recollects how often we have had to start from these fundamental conceptions will know how necessary they are for all occult observations of human evolution. If you now turn to the accounts given, for instance, in my Occult Science about Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolution, to that of the Earth, you will admit that nothing but a sketch could be given (indeed even if it were much more amplified it would still be no more), nothing but a sketch from one side, from one point of view. For just as the Earth-existence comprises an infinite wealth of detail, it is quite obvious that the former embodiments are equally detailed, and that it would never be possible to give more than a merely rough charcoal drawing, just an outline, of these. It is, however, necessary for us to describe evolution from yet another side.
If it be asked, whence arise all the accounts given here, we know that they arise from the so-called entries in the Akashic Record. We know that what has once taken place in the course of the world's evolution is in a sense to be read as though registered in a delicate spiritual substance, the Akashic substance. There is a register there of everything that has taken place, by which we can discover how things once were. Now, it is natural that just as the ordinary vision, contemplating anything of our physical world, sees the details of objects in its vicinity more or less clearly, and that the further away they are the less clear do they appear, so we may also admit that those things that are near us in time, belonging to the Earth or the Moon evolutions, can be more minutely observed; while on the other hand those further removed from us in time take on more or less indistinct outlines — as for instance when we look back clairvoyantly into the Saturn or Sun existence.
Why do we do this at all, why do we set value on following up an age so far behind our own? It might well be objected: For what reason do students of Spiritual Science bring up such primeval subjects for discussion at the present day? We really do not need to trouble ourselves about these ancient matters, we have quite enough to do with what is going on now in the world!
It would be wrong to speak in this way. For what has once happened is fulfilling itself continuously even at the present day. What occurred in the time of Saturn did not only take place then — it goes on even today; only it is covered over and made invisible by what today surrounds man on the physical plane. And the ancient Saturn-existence which played its part so long ago, has been made utterly invisible to us; but it still somewhat concerns man even now, this old Saturn-existence. And in order that we may form a conception of how it concerns us today, let us place the following before our souls.
We know that the innermost core of our being meets us in what we call our ego. This ego, the innermost core of our being, is in reality for people of the present day an absolutely supersensible and imponderable entity. This can be seen in the fact that there are today teachings regarding the soul, so-called official psychologies, which no longer have the slightest inkling that such an ego is to be alluded to. I have often drawn your attention to the fact that in the German psychology of the nineteenth century the following expression has come into use: “Soul-teaching without soul.” In the celebrated School of Wundt, which is considered decisive not only in German countries but everywhere where psychology is discussed, it is mentioned with great respect. This school was well known for the “soul-teaching without soul,” although it did not coin the expression. This teaching insisted, without taking an independent soul-being into consideration, that all the qualities of the soul are gathered into a sort of focus — into the ego. It would be impossible to think of greater nonsense, yet the psychology of the present day is absolutely under the influence of this nonsense. This “soul-teaching without soul” is today famous throughout the world. Future writers on the history of civilization will have much to do to make it appear plausible to our successors that in the nineteenth century and well on into the twentieth it was possible that such a thought could have arisen as the greatest production of the psychological field. This is only mentioned to point out how vague is official psychology respecting what we designate as the central point of the human being.
If we could have a clear grasp of the ego and place it before us like the external physical body; if we could look for the environment upon which the ego depends in the same way as the physical body is dependent upon what is seen by the eyes and perceived by the senses — if we could look for the environment of the ego in the same way as we do for that of the physical realm, in the clouds, mountains, etc., or in the same way as the physical body does for its means of nourishment, we should come even today to an expression of the cosmos, to a cosmic tableau in which, as it were, our environment is imprinted invisibly and which is similar to the cosmic tableau of ancient Saturn. This means that a man who wishes to learn to know the ego in its own world must represent to himself a world such as ancient Saturn. This world is hidden; to man it is a supersensible world. At the present stage of his evolution man could not possibly bear the perception of it. It is veiled by the Guardian of the Threshold, Who conceals it from him. And it requires a certain grade of spiritual development to support such a vision. It is indeed a vision to which we must first become accustomed. And above all you must form a conception of what is necessary to be able to feel such a cosmic tableau as reality. You must think away everything that can be perceived by the senses, you must even think away your own inner world, in so far as this consists of the wonted working of the mind. Further, you must think away from everything that is in the world, all the concepts you have within you. Thus you must remove from the external world all that the senses can perceive, and from the inner world all the workings of the mind, all conceptions. And now, if you wish to form an idea of that soul-disposition which a man must have if he really holds the thought that everything is taken away and man alone remains, we cannot say otherwise than that he must learn to feel dread and fear of the infinite emptiness yawning around us. He must be able to feel, as it were, his environment tinged and saturated with that which inspires dread and fear wherever he turns, and at the same time he must be able to overcome this fear by inner firmness and certainty.
Without these two frames of mind — dread and fear of the infinite emptiness of existence, and the overcoming of this fear — it is impossible to have the faintest conception of the ancient Saturn-existence underlying our own world. Neither of these feelings is much cultivated by people in themselves. Hence, even in literature we find but few descriptions of this condition. It is naturally known to those who in course of time endeavor to seek the origin of things by means of clairvoyant forces. In external literature, however, whether written or printed, you will find but few indications of man having felt anything like the dread of the infinite emptiness or the overcoming of this. In order to obtain a sort of insight into this, I have tried to investigate some of the more modern literature where the consciousness of this dread of the immeasurable emptiness might be found. The philosophers are as a rule extremely clever and speak in clear concepts — they avoid speaking of the mighty, awe-inspiring impressions; it will not be easy to find anything of the sort in their writings. Now, I shall not speak of those in which I have found nothing. But I once found one small echo of these feelings, and this was in the diary of Karl Rosenkrantz, the writer on Hegel, in which he sometimes describes intimate feelings produced in him by engrossing himself in the Hegel philosophy. I came upon a remarkable passage, which is simply expressed and noted in his diary. It had become clear to Karl Rosenkrantz that this philosophy proceeds from pure being. This “pure being “of Hegel is much discussed in philosophical literature of the nineteenth century — but we must say that it was very little understood. We might almost say (though, of course, this can only be said in the most intimate circles) that the philosophy of the second half of the nineteenth century understood just as little of the “pure being “of Hegel as the ox understands of Sunday, when he has eaten grass all the week. This concept of the “pure being” of Hegel is one that has been sifted again and again (not existing but Absolute Being); it is a concept which indeed is not quite what I have described as the dreadful emptiness into which flows fear. But all space in Hegel's sense is tinged with the quality containing nothing that can be experienced by man; it is infinity filled with “being.” Karl Rosenkrantz once felt this to be as a dreadful shuddering recoil from a coldness, tinged with nothing but “being.”
In order to understand what underlies the world it does not suffice to speak of it in concepts, or to form concepts and ideas on it; it is far more necessary to call up an impression of the feeling aroused by the infinite emptiness of the ancient Saturn-existence. A feeling of horror accompanies the mere hint of it. If we wish to ascend clairvoyantly to the state of Saturn, we must prepare ourselves by acquiring a feeling, more or less known to everyone, that may be compared to the giddiness experienced on a mountain, when a man stands at the edge of an abyss and feels that he has no sure footing under him, that he cannot retain it in any place and wants to give way to forces over which he has no longer any control. But that is only the most elementary of these apprehensive feelings. For he loses not only the ground beneath him, but also what eyes can see, ears hear, and hands grasp; in fact all spatial environment. And he can do no other than lose every thought that may come to him, in a sort of condition of dimness or sleep; and then he can arrive at having no perception at all. He may be so deeply absorbed in this impression that he can do no other than come to the condition of dread, which often is like a giddiness not to be overcome.
Man of today has two possibilities. The first is that he may have understood the Gospels, or the Mystery of Golgotha. Anyone who has really understood these in their full depths — naturally not as modern theologians speak of them, but in such a way that he has drawn from them the deepest that can be expressed in them — will take something with him into that emptiness, which seems to expand from a given point and fills emptiness with something similar to courage. It is a feeling of courage, of protection through being united with that Being Who accomplished the sacrifice on Golgotha. The other way is to penetrate into the spiritual worlds without the Gospels through a genuine true Spiritual Science or Anthroposophy. This is also possible. (You know that we emphasize the fact that we do not start from the Gospels when we consider the Mystery of Golgotha, but that we should arrive at it even if there were no Gospels at all.) That would not have been possible before the Mystery of Golgotha took place; but it is the case today, because something entered the world through the Mystery of Golgotha which enables a man to understand the impressions of the spiritual world directly through his own impressions. This is what we call the ruling of the Holy Spirit in the world, the ruling of cosmic thought in the world. Whether we take one or the other of these with us, we cannot lose ourselves and we cannot, so to say, fall into the bottomless abyss when we stand before the dreadful emptiness. If we now approach this dreadful emptiness with the other preparations given us by the various methods — for instance, those in my book The Knowledge of Higher Worlds and other methods dependent on these — and enter a world born from that which can shake our minds, which can seize upon our conceptions, when we live into that world, when we place ourselves, so to say, in the Saturn-existence, then we learn to know beings — not in the least similar to those we perceive in the animal, plant, or mineral kingdoms, but beings. This is a world where there are no clouds, no light, where it is quite devoid of sound, but we become acquainted with beings — indeed those beings called in our terminology Spirits of Will, or Thrones. We learn so to know them that it becomes a true objective reality for us — a surging sea of courage.
What at first can only be pictured in thought becomes, through clairvoyance, objective reality. Think of yourself as immersed in this sea — but now immersed as a spiritual being, feeling one with the Christ-Being, carried by the Christ-Being, swimming — though not in a sea of water but in a sea filling infinite space, a sea (there is no other description for it) of flowing courage, flowing energy. This is not simply a uniform and undifferentiated sea, but we meet here with all the possibilities and diversities of what we call a feeling of courage. We become acquainted with beings who, to be sure, consist of courage, but although they consist of courage alone, we meet them as really concrete beings. Naturally it may appear strange to say that we meet beings just as real as man who is made of flesh, and yet they are not of flesh but consist of courage. Yet such is the case. Of such a nature are the Spirits of Will. To begin with, we shall only designate as Saturn-existence what the Spirits of Will, consisting of courage, represent — and nothing else. This, in the first place is “Saturn.” It is a world of which we cannot say that it is spherical, hexagonal, or square. None of these definitions of space applies to it, for there is no possibility of any end being discoverable. If we revert to the simile of swimming, we may say it is not a sea in which one would come to any surface, but on all sides and in all directions are to be found Spirits of Courage or Will.
In later lectures I shall describe how we do not at once come to this: for the present I will keep to the same order as formerly: Saturn — Sun — Moon; though it is much better to keep to the reverse direction, from Earth to Saturn. I am now describing the other way 'round, but it is of no importance.
When we have lifted ourselves to this vision, something meets us of which it is extremely difficult to form an idea, except for one who has taken the trouble slowly and gradually to attain to such conceptions. For something ceases, which is more intimately connected with our ordinary human ideas than anything else: space ceases! It no longer has any meaning to say we swim “up or “down,” “forward or backward,” “right or left” — these have no longer any meaning. In this respect it is everywhere the same. But the important thing is when we reach these first ages of the Saturn-existence time, too, ceases; there is no longer “earlier “or “later.” It is naturally very difficult for man to imagine this today, because his ideas themselves flow in time. On Saturn no thought is before or after another. This again can only be described by a feeling that time ceases. This feeling is certainly not pleasant. Imagine that your concepts are benumbed, that everything that you can remember, everything which you undertake, is benumbed into a rigid rod, so that you feel yourself held in your conceptions and are no longer able to move: then you will no longer be able to say that what you formerly experienced you experienced “formerly”; you are fastened to it; it is there, but it is benumbed: time ceases to be of significance, it is absolutely no longer there. On this account it is rather foolish for anyone to say: “You describe the Saturn-existence, the Sun-existence, etc.: now tell us what was before Saturn.” “Before” has no longer any meaning because time ceases to exist; we must also cease all definitions of time. In the old Saturn-existence, speaking very comparatively, the world is really boarded up, inasmuch as thought must stand absolutely still. It is the same with clairvoyance: ordinary thoughts must be left behind, they do not extend so far. By way of a comparison and expressing it in image, we must say that our brain is frozen. And when we realize this condition of rigidity, we shall have a comparative conception of the consciousness no longer enclosed in time.
Now, when we have got as far as this we become aware of a remarkable alteration in the whole picture. It can now be observed that out of this rigidity, this timeless character of the infinite sea of courage with its beings whom we call the Spirits of Will, come the beings of other Hierarchies, as though striking into it and playing into it. We can only notice that other beings here play into it when we become aware of the cessation of time. We notice an indefinite experience of which we cannot say that we ourselves experience it, but that it is there. We can only say that it is within the whole infinite sea of courage. We observe something passing through this like a flashing-up, like a becoming lighter, but not a real illumination, more like a glimmer. This glimmer does not give the impression of a glimmering light, but as we must understand these things in various ways and we desire to make this comprehensible, we must imagine the following: Suppose a man says something to you and you think: “How clever he is!” and as he talks on further, this feeling increases and the thought comes: “He is really wise, he must have had endless experience, to say such wise things.” ... Besides this feeling, the person makes an impression upon you like a breath of enchantment. Imagine this breath of enchantment enormously enhanced — and within it clouds, which do not flash up but glimmer; if you take this altogether you will have a conception of how beings consisting entirely of Wisdom interact with the hierarchy of the Spirits of Will. Their Wisdom is not Wisdom alone, but streams which are actively radiant. In short, you then obtain clairvoyantly the conception of what the Cherubim are. The Cherubim play into it.Now imagine yourself surrounded by nothing but what I have described. I have already said, and have laid certain stress upon it, that we cannot say of it: “We have it around us,” we can only say: “It is there.” We must think ourselves into this. And concerning the conception that something is there flashing up, I said it was not a flash but a glimmering. It is not as though something arose and vanished again; everything is simultaneous. Now, however, the feeling comes that there is some connection between these Spirits of Will and the Cherubim. The feeling comes to us that they have established a relationship to one another; we become conscious of this. And indeed we become conscious that the Spirits of Will or Thrones sacrifice their own being to the Cherubim. That is the last conception to which we can attain when we approach Saturn in retrospect: that of the sacrificing Spirits of Will offering their sacrifice to the Cherubim. There the world is ‘boarded up’.
And inasmuch as we can experience the sacrifice that the Spirits of Will make to the Cherubim, something looses itself from our being. This we can express by saying: through the sacrifice made by the Spirits of Will to the Cherubim, time is born. But “time” here is not the abstract time of which we usually speak, but independent being. We can now first speak of something that begins. Time begins with the birth of time-beings--whose nature is pure time. Beings are born consisting only of time. These are the Spirits of Personality, known to us as Archai in the hierarchy of spiritual beings. In the Saturn-existence they are nothing but time. We have also described them as Time-Spirits, as Spirits who rule time. But there they are born as spirits, they are really beings consisting of nothing but time.
To take part in this sacrifice of the Spirits of Will to the Cherubim and in the birth of time is something of extraordinary importance. For it is only now, when time is born, that something else appears — something that makes it possible for us to speak of the Saturn condition as having anything in the least similar to our environment. What we call the element of warmth in Saturn is, as it were, the sacrificial smoke of the Thrones giving birth to time. Hence I have always said, in describing the Saturn-condition, that it was one of warmth. Of all the elements we have around us now, the only one we can speak of as being on ancient Saturn is warmth. And this warmth arises as sacrificial heat offered by the Spirits of Will to the Cherubim. This should give us an indication of how we should really look upon fire. Wherever we see fire, wherever we feel warmth, we should not think in so materialistic a fashion as is natural and usual to the man of today. But wherever we see and feel warmth appear we should feel that what is at the spiritual foundation of our life is present, though it is still invisible, namely the sacrifice of the Spirits of Will to the Cherubim. The world only acquires its truth when we know that behind every development of heat there is sacrifice.
In Occult Science, in order not to shock people outside unduly, I have begun by describing the more external condition of ancient Saturn. They are quite shocked enough by this, and people who can only think in accordance with modern science look upon the book as pure nonsense. Just think what it would mean if we were to say “Ancient Saturn has in its innermost being — in its very foundation — this fact: that the beings belonging to the Spirits of Will offered sacrifice to the Cherubim, that in the smoke of their sacrifice time came to birth as the sacrifice they brought to the Cherubim, and that from this have proceeded the Archai, the Time-Spirits, and that external heat is nothing but a maya as compared with the sacrifice of the Spirits of Will!” But so it is. Externally heat is really only a maya. And if we wish to speak truly we must say that wherever there is heat we have in reality sacrifice, sacrifice of the Thrones to the Cherubim.
And now an excellent “imagination” is the following: In Knowledge of Higher Worlds and elsewhere it is frequently said that the second stage of Rosicrucian initiation is the forming of imagination. The Anthroposophist must build up these imaginations from the right conceptions of the world. Thus we can think of what we have discussed today as transformed into an “imagination”: we can imagine the Thrones, the Spirits of Will, kneeling in absolute devotion before the Cherubim, but so that their devotion does not proceed from a feeling of littleness but from a consciousness that they have something to offer. Imagine the Thrones, with this desire of sacrifice founded upon their strength and courage, as kneeling before the Cherubim and sending up their sacrifice to them. ... And they send up this sacrifice as foaming heat, so that the sacrificial smoke ascends to the winged Cherubim. So might we picture it. And proceeding from this sacrifice (just as though a word of ours spoken into the air became time — in this case it is time-beings) and emerging from this whole proceeding: the Spirits of Time — Archai. This sending forth of the Archai gives a grand and powerful picture. And this picture placed before our souls is extremely impressive for certain imaginations, which can then lead us further and further into the realm of occult knowledge.
This is precisely what we have to attain; we must be able to transform the ideas we receive into imaginations, into pictures. Even if the pictures are clumsily formed, even if they are anthropomorphic, even if the beings appear as winged angels, etc., that does not signify. The rest will be given to us later; and what they ought not to have will fall away. When we yield ourselves to these pictures we penetrate into imaginative perception.
If you take what I have just endeavored to describe you will see that the soul will soon have recourse to all kinds of pictures unconnected with intellectual ideas. These latter owe their existence to a much later period, so that we should not at first take such things intellectually. And you must comprehend what is meant when some minds describe things differently from the intellectualists; the intellectualist will never be able to understand such minds. I will give a hint to anyone who wishes for instruction on this point: take out of the public library a book — which is quite a good one — the so-called “Old Schwegler,” formerly much used by students for examinations, but now no longer applicable since the “soul” is dethroned; although this book has been mutilated by way of improvement, it is not quite spoilt. You can take old Schwegler's History of Philosophy and you will have quite a good book. If you read there about the philosophy of Hegel you will find everything splendidly described. But now read the short chapter on Jacob Boehme, and try to obtain a correct idea of how helpless a man is who writes an intellectual philosophy when confronted with a spirit such as Jacob Boehme! Paracelsus — thank goodness — he left out entirely; for concerning him he would have written completely unjustifiable things. But just read what he says about Jacob Boehme. Here Schwegler comes to a spirit to whom there objectively appeared — not the Saturn picture — but the recapitulation of the Saturn picture taking place in the Earth period; this he can only do in words and concepts that cannot be approached by the intellect. To the intellectual man all comprehension here ceases. It is not as though these things were impossible of comprehension, but they cannot be understood if the standpoint of the dry philosophic intellect is insisted upon.
You see, precisely the most important thing for us is that we lift ourselves to what the ordinary intellect is unable to grasp. Even though the ordinary intellect produces something as excellent as The History of Philosophy by Schwegler (for I have expressly called this a good book), it is still an example by which we must see how a splendid intellect is completely at a standstill before a spirit such as Jacob Boehme.
Thus today we have endeavored in our consideration of ancient Saturn to penetrate more inwardly, so to say, into this old planetary embodiment of our Earth. We shall presently do the same with the Sun- and the Moon-existence. And in doing so we shall see that there too we come to ideas which perhaps may not appear less impressive than the glimpse afforded us when we look back to the old Saturn condition, and to the Thrones sacrificing to the Cherubim and resulting in the creation of the Beings of Time. For time is a result of sacrifice, and first arises as living time, as a creation of sacrifice. Then we shall see how all these things are transformed on the Sun, and other glorious events of the cosmic existence will confront us when we pass from Saturn to the Sun, and then to the Moon-existence.