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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Awareness - Life - Form
GA 89

Planetary Evolution IX

3 November 1904, Berlin

We are going to have an example of how the world evolved, concentrating on the point where evolution went through the middle of the Lemurian age, and looking at some of the time that went before and came after. The aim is to show how the sense of the eye developed at that time.

If we were able to look at the world as it was at the time of the first, the Polarian race, we would find it to be an ether orb. Soon, meaning several millions years later—which can mean ‘soon’ in world evolution—matter condensed. We see the beginnings of what we call ‘air’. In the air itself, the first beginnings evolved of what we call ‘fire’ and ‘water’. At the time, however, the water in the air was a fiery mist. At that time, in the beginning of the Lemurian age, the Earth was a dense, smoky, fiery mist. Real water as we know it today only developed later as the Earth cooled down; solid matter came even later.

We have to realize that human beings were involved in some form or other at every one of these developmental stages. Human evolution is always dependent on the surroundings.

Let us now look at the human being as he began to evolve at the time when those fiery mists were developing. He had his sense of hearing at the time, and a sense of feeling for temperature differences; he was a highly differentiated, mobile creature flying around in the fiery mist. He needed an organ for feeling if conditions were favourable, not too hot nor too cold. The Cyclops-like organ developed at this time, which had initially served as an organ for feeling the ambient temperature, to tell him if he might enter into it or not.

Then the whole mass in which he was moving started to grow fiery. Before, this element we now call ‘flame’ was not present; the level of the temperature was much higher than the temperature of fire today. The feeling organ sensed that the state of heat was turning into flame and thus gradually condensed into an organ of vision. We see, therefore, that this feeling organ evolved from the inside, arising initially from an inner need of the human being; it was to tell him if he felt well or not. Initially, the organ therefore existed for the sake of the human being himself, so that he might evolve as a life form in conditions that would allow this. At the same time—initially as an attendant phenomenon—the organ developed the ability to perceive the flame which had grown cold, which was light. The organ was at the top of the human head, like a glowing lantern. As matter condensed further it changed from an organ of feeling into an organ of vision.

The mobile human body was getting progressively denser. The result was that this feeling eye lost significance in the encounter with denser objects with external boundaries. Now the attendant phenomenon of being able to see the cold flame came into its own. The organ grew able, as matter was growing denser, to see the object with its boundaries; it was thus given a new role, as it were, as the surroundings changed. The original function has remained and will come into its own at a later stage.66See lecture given on 30 September 1905, in GA 93a, Foundations of Esotericism (see note 13).

The new quality had thus entered into the entity from the outside, to be given its function later on. Every entity first absorbs from the surroundings what it will later need for its conditions for life. Human beings would never have been able to perceive things through their eyes if these had not been created into them out of the surroundings. Organs need to be created out of the surroundings first, so that these surroundings may then be perceived. Through the organs which the surrounding world has created in him, he can in turn bring influence to bear in the surroundings.

Human beings can never give anything to the world unless the world has first created the conditions for it. Thus interaction between human being and world created the eyes, and through them human beings will later be able again to influence the world. We always have the same process; the human being first absorbs something from the outside which he will then later give out again. Everything in us has resulted from an activity. There is nothing in existence that has not originally been activity. All existence is the result of activity. This applies in all areas of existence, on all planes.

If we consider the dhyanic spirits in their revelatory activity, this is the outcome of an activity they had previously absorbed. This is the law of karma in its most comprehensive sense. All that is results from activity. To be a fortunate individual, you must have created your good fortune yourself in an earlier existence. The good fortune someone enjoys is the outcome of some activity on that individual’s part that had proved a blessing.

Consideration given to the karma of eye development differs from other [studies of karma] in that the individual remains perfectly calm and objective in giving his consideration. Emotions come into it when he considers the karma of his essential nature—idea of just and unjust. In the Vedantic and Pythagorean schools it was therefore the custom to discuss karma by choosing objects that would not arouse emotions. This first of all purified the thoughts, so that nothing by way of passions and feelings would enter into them. This was ‘study’, the aim being to get to know the laws of the world in a way that did not involve emotions. It was called ‘catharsis’, leaving aside anything personal. After this the individual concerned could become a mystic. For as long as human beings have reflected on the destiny of their souls, they have been very interested to know if it is mortal or immortal. They therefore had to go through catharsis in those times before they could study the soul’s destiny without emotion. Calm, emotionless study would free them from fear and self pity, above all egotistical compassion. Aristotle therefore defined drama as a cleansing through fear and compassion.67Aristotle (384–322 BC), in Poetics, 6th section. See also Rudolf Steiner’s essay ‘Aristoteles ueber das Mysteriendrama’ in Lucifer-Gnosis, GA 34.

We can see, therefore, that evolution involves a sequence of stages. At one level an entity will absorb something, then to be active on the outside at another. To begin with, the entity comes face to face with the outside world; then interaction develops. This would continue if circumstances did not change. When condensation occurs, the activity is struck back and the entity is transformed from inside.

In the development of the eyes, we have first of all the feeling eye in direct contact with the surrounding world. Then the eye was delimited by the denser matter which formed a layer in between. This physical layer separated the fire of the inner eye from the fire outside. Denser layers form in the following way. If there is a uniform orb to begin with, a spherical shell will first of all develop and this separates from the inner sphere because a layer forms in between. This is how the original atom arose.68See the lectures given in Berlin on 16 & 23 Dec. 1904 and 21 Oct. 1905, in The Temple Legend (see note 22). Initially, therefore, we have equally subtle matter inside and out, separated by a fine membrane of denser matter. Imagine that the process continues. Imagine the membrane of denser matter divides again in a similar way, as if it developed a more recent, denser membrane around itself. A separate entity thus develops, surrounding itself with progressively denser membranes, like the way an atom develops. We therefore have to think of the way atoms form—part of an existing form of matter being separated off by matter that grows progressively denser.

A difference then exists between inner and outer. This will have to show itself in some way. Consider sensation, as we call it. It may be caused by a pin prick, for example. But there has to be something which causes the sensation and something which has it—something active and something passive. Everything in the world comes into existence like this. All that is results from activity. All activity depends on there being something that is passive. These are the two poles we must look for with any activity. Even with the smallest atom we have something active and something passive. In the case of the atom, the forces acting from outside invert the membrane which encloses it. It grows concave from the outside, and convex, the opposite, from the inside.

In relation to the world we are the passive part, for we receive and feel impressions all the time. These continuous impressions are sensed by the astral body. We have to distinguish between activity and passivity in the astral world. Every sensation has to be produced, or rather caused. Nothing can be caused in the world of sentience without having an effect in that world. You have to visualize the whole of sentient space. If there were only a single astral body, we would never be able to ascribe sensations to the activities of other entities. Yet the ability to sense things could not have developed in us if we had not differentiated it out from a whole astral world in this way. Astral existence presupposes astral activity. In the same way mental existence presupposes thought activity, and physical existence physical activity.

Having understood this, we also understand something else. The human being thinks. This is his existence. Cogito ergo sum (Descartes).69René Descartes (1596–1650), French philosopher and mathematician. Principia Philosophiae Part 1, paragraph 7. Our passive thinking about things presupposes active thinking, presupposes that the things have first been created through the thought. Our human passive thinking presupposes one that is active. For every passive thought there must have been an active and creative thought before. Every feeling, every sensation, all passive experience in the astral body presupposes that this astral experience has been actively brought about. Anything which appears in the world all around us presupposes that the phenomena were first called into existence. Light would not exist if light had not been brought about; existence would not exist if it had not been brought about; sensory perception presupposes that the phenomenon is first revealed.

Everywhere in the world we find these three:

Active and passive thinking
Active and passive life
Active and passive existence.

Everything which is passive existence for the human being, is called the physical plane; it is the essence of all passive existence.

The essence of all passive life is called the astral plane.

The essence of all passive thinking is called the rupa mental plane.

The essence of all active thinking is called the arupa mental plane.

The essence of all active life is called the budhi plane.

The essence of all active existence is called the nirvana plane.

These are the five [six] planes known to us. Activity is most intensive in the nirvana plane, for existence itself is created there.

If we consider the human being in terms of these planes, we see that every thought which a human being thinks is followed by another active thought on the corresponding plane, which is the reaction. If you have a thought on the lower mental plane, this causes a counter image on the higher mental plane. If you have a feeling, this produces a counter image on the budhi plane. If you are active in the physical plane, this produces a counter image on the nirvana plane. Just as earlier an active thought created our passive thinking, so does an active thought creative its passive counter image on the higher mental plane, and so on. We thus cannot take a single thought but that this has its counter image, and the same holds true for a feeling or action.

The sum of all those counter thoughts, counter experiences and counter actions is called the akashic record. It is therefore possible to read every human thought on the higher mental plane, all feelings and experiences on the budhi plane, and all actions in the nirvana plane. The spirits which regulate the relationship between those counter images and human beings play an important role. Human beings live out their thoughts on the mental plane. What they deal with in their thoughts, all happens on the mental plane. When they are there, in the devachan, between death and rebirth, they build the character of their thought body for the next life. That is where the counter images of their former thoughts are. The individual draws them to his mental body, which has been freed from anything physical or astral, and thus creates his future mental body according to the thought images he has created. However, he would not be able to connect the counter images of his experiences and actions with himself on his own. This needs spirits who regulate things from the outside, the lords of karma, the lipikas. They connect the counter images of the human being’s feelings and actions with him when he is on the budhi and nirvana planes—with kamic and other elements already enveloping him—to provide for the incarnations that will follow.