Earthly and Cosmic Man
7. The Signature of Human Evolution. The Advancing Individuality. The Dawn of the New Power of the Spirit-Self in Man.
20 May 1912, Berlin
The last lecture dealt with the subject of how the Christ Impulse will unfold in future times, and also, of course, in our own epoch. We heard that sheaths will weave themselves as it were around the Christ Impulse: Wonder into an Astral Body; feelings of love or Compassion into an Ether-Body; the power of Conscience into what corresponds to a Physical Body. Thereby that Ideal Being Whose “ I ” — the Christ Impulse Itself — passed into the Earth through the Mystery of Golgotha, will reach completion in the course of the time still remaining to Earth-evolution. The fundamental character of the future Ideal of humanity was described in one of its aspects and the present lecture will endeavour to add yet another, different picture.
The Christ Impulse came, so to say, in the middle of the epoch following upon the great Atlantean catastrophe. This epoch may be said to extend from the time of the Atlantean catastrophe to the next great catastrophe of which you may read in the lectures on the Apocalypse. (Nuremburg, 1908.) In the middle of this period, the most important of all events in Earth-evolution takes place — the coming of the Christ Impulse. As the last lecture indicated, it is not necessary to turn our eyes to Palestine in order to realise that something of the highest importance was taking place at that time in Earth-evolution. We have only to study the Graeco-Latin epoch of culture, lying as it does in the middle of the Post-Atlantean period, and recall one of its characteristic features; this again can be compared with a similar feature in the preceding Third epoch and in our own epoch.
The essential and fundamental character of a Greek Temple has often been described. Its form stands there as a complete, self-contained, independant whole, even when it is not actually before our eyes, even when we conceive of no human being anywhere near it. Inside a Greek Temple, human beings always seem to be a disturbing element; they do not really belong to it, they do not belong inside it. For what, in reality, is a Greek Temple? We can only understand it in its whole form and structure, if we think of it as the dwelling-place of a living, invisible God who has come down to the physical plane. That is the reason why every Temple is dedicated to one particular God. And when we picture the God in the Temple — with no human beings present — the God for whom a dwelling-place has been built on Earth ... then we have grasped the “idea” embodied in the Greek Temple. Human beings really have no place there. This was the idea underlying the whole architecture of a Greek Temple. Such architecture could only arise in an epoch when the Divine Spiritual was known to pervade all existence on the physical plane. Men whose paths appeared to be everywhere steeped in the Divine could feel all the depth of meaning contained in words uttered by one of themselves: “Better it is to be a beggar in the Upper World than a king in the realm of the Shades!” ... that is to say, in the world lying on the other side of the Gate of Death. It was the period when human beings experienced, in greatest intensity, their union with the physical plane and with the Spiritual pervading the physical plane.
Let us compare a Greek Temple with a building of the same character in the preceding epoch — and with buildings which, in our own epoch, indicate its fundamental attitude and trend. Think of an Egyptian Temple, even of the Pyramids: they become intelligible only when we see them as expressions of man's aspiration to the Divine — to the Divine Godhead who has not yet descended to the physical plane. In the architecture of the Egyptian time, every line, every form, expresses the striving of man towards the Divine-Spiritual. But these mysterious and deeply symbolical buildings indicate in themselves that men must have undergone preparation before the architectural forms could help them to find the way to the Divine-Spiritual. They needed preparation: they must have reached the first stage of Initiation. The same applies to the architecture of Asia Minor. In our own epoch, Gothic architecture gives the keynote. This is an occult fact. It is impossible to have the same conception of a Gothic Cathedral as of a Greek Temple; for a Gothic Cathedral is incomplete without the congregation of believers. It is simply not complete without the human beings within it! All its forms seem to convey that they are there to receive the prayers of the believers — the “believers,” in contrast to the “Initiates” in ancient Egypt. Anyone who can discern what these things mean, realises from the course taken by the evolution of Form from the Egyptian Temple, through the Greek Temple, to the Gothic Cathedral, that the impulse leading to the unfolding of the human “ I ” entered at a certain point into the process of earthly existence. Wherever we look we can perceive how the Christ Impulse lays hold of man, leaves its stamp and signature upon all happenings, all development, and it seems grotesque when philosophical or theological thought declares that acceptance of such an Impulse rests upon the basis of historical records. It does not rest upon any historical record whatever, but simply and solely upon a discerning, clear-sighted observation of human evolution; for no matter where we look, we see that development follows the same course as that revealed in Architecture. The Initiate who alone was capable of understanding the architectural forms of the Egypto-Chaldean epoch — the Third Post-Atlantean epoch — knew that he must raise himself above the level of ordinary manhood: then and only then could he ascend into the region of Divine Spiritual life. The Initiate of the Fourth Post-Atlantean epoch knew that in the physical world he was living together with the Divine, but he had very little connection with what the Greeks called the World of Shades, because by that time man had descended more deeply into physical existence. And when the Gods did not mingle with men in the Temples, the Greeks felt no connection with that other world.
Since the Fourth Post-Atlantean epoch these conditions have changed — changed in the sense that it is possible now for every single soul to find the path to the Divine-Spiritual. It is extremely important to realise this for it is the most concrete expression of the fact that in ancient times men were much nearer to the Spiritual in their consciousness, in their knowledge and in their life of soul. Then came the descent to the physical plane and now there must be a gradual re-ascent. We are living in the age when the re-ascent must be undertaken consciously — whereas, to begin with, the Christ Impulse worked unconsciously in men.
Our own epoch is a kind of recapitulation of the Egypto-Chaldean period. Of the Graeco-Latin epoch there is no recapitulation, for it lies in the middle of the seven consecutive periods. The Third epoch is being recapitulated, in a certain form, in our own age; the Second epoch, that of ancient Persian culture, will be recapitulated in the Sixth epoch by which our own will be followed; and in the far distant Seventh epoch, before a stupendous catastrophe, the First epoch, that of ancient Indian culture, will be recapitulated — not, of course, in the same form, for the recapitulation will everywhere bear the imprint of the Christ Impulse.
A certain consciousness existed, especially in olden times, of what has come to pass in the evolution of mankind. Olden times, of course, were paramountly conscious of the descent of humanity, the descent to the physical plane from the heights of Divine-Spiritual existence. But for every process there must be preparation. There had been preparation, too, for the Impulse given by the Mystery of Golgotha in the Fourth epoch — the Impulse for the re-ascent. This Impulse had its “forerunners” — in Elijah, John the Baptist and others. But consciousness of the fact that mankind has descended from Divine-Spiritual existence and in the future must re-ascend into the worlds of Divine Spirit, was present not only in the culture which eventually made its way into the West; evidences of such consciousness are to be found in every civilisation.
A very widespread and characteristic idea finds expression in the traditions of practically all the peoples — an idea which may, it is true, have very ramified applications, but can finally be associated with a definite and specific tradition. It is a tradition upon which there has been much reflection and upon which occult knowledge alone can shed light, namely, the tradition of the “Flood.” Much that is connected with this tradition refers, of course, to far earlier times, but the following is brought clearly to light by occult investigation. Nearly all the peoples who have left reliable historical records or legends refer to the Flood as having taken place about three thousand years before the Mystery of Golgotha; that is the period indicated by the legends. There is not enough time today to explain why this last Flood which was supposed to have occurred three thousand years before our era, cannot be taken to indicate a great physical catastrophe or deluge. Obviously it does not refer to the Atlantean catastrophe, for that took place very much earlier. The “Flood,” therefore, must mean something entirely different. Yet the fact should not be lost sight of that the traditions of all the peoples in question place the Flood in the fourth millennium before our era. Although the dates vary a little, they tally in the main essentials.
At this point I will ask you to remember that in the First Post-Atlantean epoch, when the Holy Rishis were the great teachers of men, culture was inspired, paramountly, by the human ether-body; during the ancient Persian epoch, culture was inspired by the astral body, the sentient body; in the Egypto-Chaldean epoch by the sentient soul; in the Graeco-Latin epoch by the mind or intellectual soul; in our present epoch by the consciousness soul (or “spiritual soul”). And now the time is approaching when the powers of the Spirit-Self will gradually be imbued into culture. In that development proceeded in this way, the experiences arising in man's life of soul underwent deep and far-reaching change. Just think of it. The picture of the world presented to a man of the earliest Indian epoch, of which even the Vedas have no knowledge, received its essential character and stamp from the working of the ether-body. Through the ether-body man cannot direct his gaze to the outer world in the way that is customary in our time. His perception, his picture of the world cannot be as they are today; where the forces of the ether-body are in operation, everything arises from within. A man of today can only have an idea — dim and lifeless at that — of perception which derives from the ether-body, when he recalls the character of his dreams. But the dreams and visions through which, during the ancient Indian epoch, one human being became known to another, were living and real in the very highest degree. To imagine that when one human being met another, the outer perception of him was the same as it is today, would be quite erroneous. The man of ancient India saw pictures — but in those times the other human being physically before him was enveloped in an auric cloud, shrouded in a kind of mist. The character of perception was altogether different compared with perception as it is at the present day, these pictures, although full of the greatest spiritual import, were blurred and hazy. The forces streaming down from Cosmic Space, from the world of the stars — it was these forces that were seen in such clarity and brilliance in those ancient times. In the Second Post-Atlantean epoch the power to look outwards gradually unfolded but, strangely enough, the faculty for gazing into the great Cosmic Spaces remained. Whereas perceptions of the world below were still hazy and without definition, the ancient Persian gazed with lucid clarity into the world of the stars. It is therefore intelligible that Zarathustrianism should point directly to Cosmic Space, to the light of the Sun, to “Ahura Mazdao” or Ormuzd. This was because the astral body was paramountly active. By the end of the ancient Persian epoch, the faculty of looking outwards into the physical world was already in its preparatory stage. The impulses leading to perception as it is in our day have been developing for long, long ages. Thus the impulse to look out into the physical world was gradually instilled into man, leading him to the entirely new mode of perception which began to light up by slow degrees.
When the ancient Persian epoch was drawing to its close and the next period was glimmering like a dawn of the future, men felt: “We shall no longer be able to experience with such intensity the Divine heritage that has come to us from the olden days of Atlantis, when with their power of inner, clairvoyant vision, men lived in communion with the worlds of Divine Spirit ” ... The gaze was turned back to the past. What mattered most for these men were their remembrances in which living pictures arose like dreams — dreams of how the Gods had fashioned the world through the ages of Lemuria and Atlantis. They felt that these remembrances were withdrawing, were fading away from humanity and that conditions were approaching when man must work with a faculty which tells him of the outer world, clouds the bright light of the inner world of the Spirit, and compels him to look from within-outwards, if he is to master the external world. This age was drawing nearer and nearer. Those who had the deepest, clearest perception of the dawn of the new epoch were men who at that time were the knowers and sages in ancient India. They felt it in the form, as it were, of a Divine Impulse, compelling the human being to think for himself, through inner activity, about what confronts him in the physical world to which he was descending. Picturing this Impulse as a Divine Being, the successors of the first, very ancient Indian culture — those who were living now during the Second Post-Atlantean epoch — called this Being “Pramathesis.” These men felt: “The God Pramathesis is drawing near, snatching human beings away from the guidance given by the ancient Gods; God Pramathesis is causing the disappearance of all that ancient clairvoyance revealed concerning the world and is forcing man to look outwards into the physical plane. Darkness is creeping over the world of the ancient Gods. A time is approaching when in their life of soul men will no longer be able to gaze into the world of the Gods, but when their eyes will be turned to the outer world. Kaliyuga, the ‘Black Age’ is approaching; the bright age of ancient Divinity is giving place to the age when the Gods of old withdraw. It is the age inaugurated by the God Pramathesis!”
Kaliyuga was said to begin at a time which lies 3,101 years before our own era; this is the time of the “Flood” according to Indian tradition. For it was said that the Flood coincides with the coming of Kaliyuga, and Kaliyuga was conceived to be the offspring of the God “Pramathesis”.
Kaliyuga broke in upon the world, reaching its close in our own age. Now that the ascent to the spiritual world must begin, a spiritual science has come to mankind. Kaliyuga began 3,101 years before our era, and ended in the year 1899 A.D. That is why 1899 is a year of such importance. The re-ascent to the spiritual worlds — this must be the ideal of the future.
The age preceding the onset of Kaliyuga was, however, an age characteristic of the ancient Persian epoch when the old remembrances rose up within man via the astral body. Now he was to turn to the world outside. This was a great and epoch-making transition. In the case of many human beings it came about in such a way that for a time all vision departed from them and darkness spread over their souls. This condition of darkness did not last for long periods, actually only for weeks. But men passed into this condition of sleep, and many never came out of it. Many of them perished and only relatively few were left in widely scattered regions. There is not enough time today to describe the conditions actually prevailing at that time. It can only be said briefly that owing to so large a number of human beings having succumbed, conditions were dark and sinister in the extreme and at only a few scattered places did men awaken from the great spiritual deluge that spread over their souls like a sleep. This condition of sleep was felt by most souls as a kind of “drowning” and by only a few as a re-awakening. And then came the “Black Age,” the age devoid of the Gods.
Were these things known to other human beings on the Earth? They were indeed. To our astonishment we find widespread evidence of knowledge among the peoples that a deluge had submerged the consciousness of men and that in the Third Post-Atlantean epoch, through the development of the sentient soul — in other words, outward-turned vision — an entirely new power must have been inaugurated. The Indians divined this when they said: Kaliyuga is the offspring of Pramathesis. And what did the Greeks say? In Greece, “Pramathesis” becomes, “Prometheus” — which is exactly the same. Prometheus is the brother of Epimetheus. The latter represents one who still “looks back” into ancient times. Epimetheus is the one whose thoughts turn backward; Prometheus sends his thoughts forward, to the world outside, to what takes place there. Just as Pramathesis has his offspring in Kaliyuga, so, too, Prometheus has his offspring. The Greek form of “Kaliyuga” is “Kalion.” And because the Greeks felt it to be the age of Darkness, the “ d ” is prefixed and the word becomes “Deukalion” — which is really the same word as “Kaliyuga.” This is not ingenious fancy, but an occult fact. It is clear, therefore, that the Greeks possessed the same knowledge as the Indian sages. This is quoted merely as an example, indicating that in their conditions of old clairvoyance, knowledge of these truths came to men and they were able to express them in majestic pictures. The Greek legend tells how, on the advice of his father Prometheus, Deukalion builds a wooden chest; in this he and his wife Pyrrha alone are saved from destruction, when Zeus proposes to exterminate the human race by a deluge. Deukalion and Pyrrha land on Parnassus, and from them issues the new human race. Deukalion is the son of Prometheus — and in the intervening period comes the flood, denoting among manifold peoples, a condition of consciousness.
These wonderful pictures which have been preserved in the traditions of so many of the peoples, show us how truths concerning the evolution of mankind have survived among them.
As men lived on gradually into the age of Kaliyuga, into the Third Post-Atlantean epoch, the ancient clairvoyant knowledge faded away. We who have to recapitulate the Third epoch, must bring this kind of knowledge to life once again, but in an entirely new form. The lecture given a fortnight ago (The Idea of Reincarnation and its Introduction into Western Culture) dealt with this subject. Western culture, the beginnings of which were mingled with the ancient Hebrew culture, has to concentrate primary attention on the single personality living on the physical plane between birth and death; Western culture cannot focus its main attention on the Individuality who passes through the different epochs, but concentrates upon the existence of the one personality, whose life between birth and death runs its course on the physical plane, not in the higher worlds. Now that Kaliyuga has come to an end, consciousness must be imbued with the forces necessary for the further evolution of the human race; what was lost during Kaliyuga must be raised again from the depths. Our eyes must be directed more and more to the onflowing life of the Individuality. I have spoken of a series of lives in the West — Elijah, John the Baptist, Raphael, Novalis — and have shown how by the addition of knowledge derived from the spiritual worlds, we can perceive the continuous thread of the soul, the onflowing life of the one Individuality in Elijah, John the Baptist, Raphael, Novalis.
In our Movement, development of this insight must be a conscious aspiration, for it is a necessity in the evolution and culture of the Earth. No progress would be possible by the mere continuation of the old experiences, the old knowledge. I have emphasised often enough all that it means for the minds of men to enrich and make fruitful the heritage of ancient times by means of the new knowledge now available. It must, however, be realised that just as the transition from life inspired by the astral body to a spiritual life of soul, primarily in the sentient soul, was fraught with deep significance, so, now, we must work our way from life in the consciousness soul to life in the Spirit-Self. I have intimated how this will take place by saying that during the next three thousand years, an increasing number of human beings will experience the Appearance of the Christ Impulse, will be able to experience the Christ Impulse in the spiritual worlds. But actual realisation of the influences streaming in from the spiritual world will have to unfold in greater intensity in the times lying ahead of us. It will not suffice to know, in theory, that “generally speaking” the human being lives on after death; man's whole picture of life must carry the sure conviction that when the human being passes through the Gate of Death, he lives on still, death being merely a transition. We must realise, not as a theory, but as actual knowledge, that while a human being is alive, he works upon us physically, through his body; after his death he works spiritually, out of the spiritual world, upon our physical world. He is present in very truth. We must learn to see life in the light of such a fact and to reckon with what it involves.
Suppose it is our task to educate children. — Anyone acquainted with these things is well aware that to educate children who up to their twentieth year still have parents living, is a very different matter from having to educate children whose fathers died when they were four or five years old. When education is taken in deep earnestness, and the individuality of the child really studied (it is not a matter of speculation!) — especially in the case of a child whose father is dead, we shall often discern that there is something unusual at work here, something we cannot, at first, quite get hold of. Moreover we shall not succeed in getting to the root of it, if we adopt the modes of thought drawn from materialism. But here and there the thought may occur: “Here is a strange current of the times. Most people regard those who belong to it as fools; but it may be worth while to find out what these Theosophists have to say about the destiny of human beings after death. The Theosophists tell us that although human beings discard their physical bodies at death, the content of their life of soul, their hopes, aspirations and so forth, live on, and are not inactive. Indeed they are often more active after death than when the human being was living on the physical plane, enclosed in his body” ... Those who speak like this, have paid attention to the results of spiritual research and will realise that the father is working upon the child from the spiritual world; moreover that he has definite hopes and longings which make their way into the life of the child! With this knowledge, success may come where it was not possible before, and we know how to deal with sympathies and antipathies which may express themselves in the child. To succeed with children we need to know more than that the air affects them, and that when the air is chilly they may catch cold. We must have knowledge of the influences playing from the spiritual world into the physical, and of the form they take.
These things are still regarded as nonsense, but the time is not far distant when the very facts of life will compel people to take account of them and to reckon with what endures in the form of live and potent impulses after human beings have passed through death. Not until then will the concrete reality contained in the spiritual conception of the world be grasped.
Naturally, these influences from the spiritual world are not at work in the case of children only; influences also come from individualities in the spiritual world who were connected with human beings at a later age of life. To begin with, a man may be quite unaware of these influences. (Again I am not inventing but telling you of actual observations, confirmed by spiritual investigation.) After a time a man may say to himself: “I do not know why I am impelled to this or that action, why I have this impulse; something is urging me to think quite differently now, about certain things.” Subsequently he may have a very striking dream. Little heed is paid to things of the kind nowadays, but men will gradually become aware that it is not the “form” but the content of the dream that is of importance. From this you may conclude that if Edison had made his discoveries in a dream, they would have been just as effective! Suppose a man dreams that some unknown person comes to him, someone he cannot even think of as an acquaintance, indeed cannot place at all. This person comes into his life of dream and various things happen ... Finally he realises that this person whom he cannot recall, who died perhaps fifteen years before, is working into and influencing his life. Whereas previously he felt that certain impulses were urging him on, he is now fully aware that these impulses, in the form of a dream-picture, are working into his night-consciousness. This is often characteristic of the connection between impulses within us and influences working upon us in the shape of dreams. Such experiences will become increasingly familiar.
And now, in conclusion, let us see how they will become familiar.
Suppose someone today reads one of the many biographies of Raphael. He will get the impression that in a certain respect Raphael stands there as a phenomenon, complete in himself, giving forth the highest and best that was in him, but so enclosed within his particular sphere of work that it is difficult to imagine him rising still higher or transcending the level he had actually reached. And again: Raphael's creative genius seems to have been alive in him from the the very beginning ... On the subject of its phenomenal manifestation in Raphael's early boyhood the biographies have nothing to say. And why?
The biographies give the information that Raphael's father was Giovanni Santi who, among other activities, was also a writer; he died when Raphael was eleven years old, but before his death he had placed the boy under the tuition of a painter. It is also known that Giovanni Santi was himself a talented painter but that there was something in him which he could not bring to expression. We feel that there was something in the soul of Giovanni Santi which did not make itself manifest because his outer nature frustrated it. He died when the boy Raphael was eleven years old. From the very way in which Raphael develops we can discern the source of the powers which enabled him to reach maturity and perfection so rapidly they are the influences playing into him from his father, forces coming from the spiritual worlds. Anyone who tries to write a true biography of Raphael in the future will have to emphasise the point that Giovanni Santi, the father of Raphael, died in 1494, when the boy was only eleven years old. Giovanni Santi was a distinguished man, who during his life on Earth aspired to great things. And his aspirations continued when, living on without frustration in the spiritual world, he was sending down to his beloved son — in the form of delicate and intimate spiritual influences — forces which his own constitution had prevented him from bringing to expression in the physical world.
To say this is no disparagement of Raphael's genius, for the ground must naturally have been there. We know that he was the reincarnation of John the Baptist and had only to receive into himself those forces which it was his particular mission to bring into manifestation at that time. Thinking of this, we can perceive the interplay between the spiritual world and the physical plane. Future study of the life of Raphael will have, at every turn, to concern itself with the influences which poured from the Spiritual into the Physical. Then we shall have a picture of “wholeness” — of forces working around us, through us, in us. Thus will spirituality again be instilled into culture. But it must not surprise us if those who are unwilling today to listen to any suggestion of the introduction of spirituality into culture, are contemptuous of this spiritual conception of the world; for it is something completely new. It is a dawning of the new power of the Spirit-Self. And a time will come — I ask you to write this deeply into your souls — when men will think of the materialistic culture which is now on the way to its close, as they once thought about the age preceding the Flood, yearning and longing for the future culture which, when it came, was something wholly and essentially new. Theosophists, however, should not merely strive for this ideal in theory, but receive it into their very souls; they should regard it as their good Karma to know about the course of human evolution and therewith of human culture.
These things will have to be pondered over for a time, because I am not yet in a position to say exactly when the next lecture can take place. 1Between the date of this lecture and the next of the series (18th June, 1912), Dr. Steiner had given two lectures in Copenhagen: On the Meaning of Life, 23rd and 24th May, 1912; three lectures in Norrköping: Anthroposophical Ethics, 28th and 29th May, 1912; and two lectures in Christiania: Man in the Light of Occultism, Theosophy and Philosophy, 2nd June to 12th June, 1912. But we know well that time is required to make Spiritual Science an integral force and impulse in our hearts and minds; and we know, too, that it is part of spiritual development not only to understand the truths but actually to unfold all that the great ideas born from a spiritual conception of the world can say to our hearts.