Original Impulses for the Science of the Spirit
XVI. Human Biography and Planetary Evolution
4 March 1907, Berlin
Today I’d like to tell you some more and expand on the theme of human biography from my last lecture. 95Steiner R. Supersensible Knowledge (GA 55), Berlin, 28 February 1907. Tr. R Stebbing. Hudson: Anthroposophic Press 1987. We can consider some more subtle aspects and also add something here and there that had to be left out in the public lecture. Above all I would like to present human biography to you as a whole, in all its greatness. I’d like to show you how human beings, the way we have them before us today, are indeed a kind of microcosm, a small world. Everything we have all around us, not only on earth but in a way also in the starry heavens, is in us, being part of the laws that govern our evolution.
You may remember that reference has been made on several earlier occasions to the fact that our earth has to go through an evolution which is similar to that of the human being, that our earth has not always been the planet on which we live today, but that it is a reincarnation, as it were, of earlier planets. Basing ourselves on the science of the spirit, we can say that our earth has evolved from a planet that preceded it, though this was a vast number of years ago, and, as we have said several times before, this planet is called ‘Moon’ by occultists. It should not, of course, in any way be confused with our present-day moon. Today’s moon,-a satellite of our earth, is a kind of cinder that has been cast off as being of no further use. You could see the predecessor of our earth develop if you were able to stir together everything our present-day earth and moon are today and everything of soul and spiritual quality they contain. This would give you a planet that would more or less be the predecessor of our earth, the Moon. On that Moon, from which our earth has gradually evolved, the physical human beings did not yet have their present form. A kind of physical predecessor lived on the Moon, but this predecessor still had very much an animal nature. You should not think that today’s human being was present in the animal human being on Moon. On ancient Moon, creatures walked about that had animal and human nature, higher than today’s mammals but lower than today’s human beings. The soul human beings have in them today was not yet present in the Moon human being. At that time it enveloped human beings, just as they have an invisible aura around them today.
I have said on several occasions that the human astral body leaves the physical body at night. In sleep, it is merely connected with the physical body by an astral strand in the region of the spleen that can be perceived by a clairvoyant. The spleen does not only have a physical function; it also serves to provide the connection between man’s physical part and his spirit and soul. The spleen b the point where the physical body connects with the astral body. It is because of this that you’ll read in any anatomy book that nothing much is really known about the spleen. It is one of the organs that are on the borderline of being physical organs. The astral body, which in sleep is thus only connected with the physical body through the spleen, works to rid the body of matter created by tiredness. To the clairvoyant, the sleeping human appears to be enveloped in a strange cloud that is continually working on the physical body.
In the earth’s Moon state, the part of the human being which today is outside the physical body during sleep was outside all the time. It was connected with the general divine spirit of the world. Part of the spirituality enveloping the Moon only separated off for human beings during earth existence. Occultists may indeed say that human beings had a predecessor who was animal-like in spirit. But if you were to take materialistic thinking to be the only kind that has validity, the present-day human being would never have evolved from this predecessor. The principle which had been working on human beings from outside had to enter into them and develop in order to achieve the later stages. The ensoulment spoken of in the paradise myth did therefore truly take place on earth. This paradise myth is something you may take literally in the widest sense. The air which surrounds us today was the true body of the human soul on the Moon. At that time the air was still wholly filled with spirit. Just as today’s earth is surrounded by physical air, so the Moon was enveloped in something that was full of soul substance. Now you’ll understand why the air has grown soulless and physical. The soul entered into the body: ‘And God breathed into their nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.’ 96See note 56. This paradise myth contains the most profound wisdom.
On the Moon, a physical body in the cosmos, the human being was therefore still much less perfect as a physical entity, and everything else therefore had not reached the level it has today. This Moon body is something I have also described to you several times before. Let us recall what it may have looked like. Rocks, soil, the kind of solid ground on which we walk about today did not exist on the Moon. The ancient Moon as a cosmic body was a kind of half living creature. Imagine a peat bog, though with more life in it than today’s peat — a vegetable mush, if you like, like spinach perhaps. This mushy substance contained woody material. Instead of the rocks we have today, there was a kind of woody foundation on the Moon, and above this a mass that was half plant, half stone. Life-forms grew on this that were halfway between plants and animals — plant-animals we might say. Today’s parasitic plants are descendants of the plants that lived on the Moon, above all mistletoe. This can only grow on other plants because it is a relic, a plant that grew on a vegetable base on the Moon. This is why mistletoe plays such a role in popular tales.
Human beings were at a higher level of development than those life forms that were half plant, half animal. If the Moon had stayed the way it then was, if it had retained all those things, human souls could never have managed to develop Moon's animal human being further, to become today’s human soul. The whole substance of the Moon was not of a kind that would allow human beings to be taken further in their development. For this to happen, it was first of all necessary to cast out the material that is in our present-day moon. This alone made it possible to develop the animal human being to the human being of today, using the earth’s material. We thus have a predecessor of our earth which we call ‘planet Moon’. In it, our present-day earth was united with the present-day moon, which was merely discarded in order to obtain the purified substance that would make it possible to develop human beings in their present form.
Further back in time, our earth was a planet which is called ‘Sun’ in occult science, though again it was not the same as our sun today. If you were to stir together our present earth, our present sun and our present moon, with all the creatures and spirits that belong to them, you would have the earlier planet Sun. Cosmically speaking, the sun is a much more advanced entity than our earth. It is inhabited by spirits who live permanently in the condition in which human beings only find themselves when they are in the devachanic world between death and rebirth. They are devachanic spirits whom we might call our devachanic comrades. They had previously gone through the stages human beings are going through today. To enable them to reach the Sun stage, they on their part had first to remove the Moon of that time, just as today’s earth later had to remove the present-day moon. This had to be taken out of the Sun as it then was, and the planet then advanced to being a fixed star. A star is not fixed from the beginning. In reality a fixed star has evolved from a planet. Our earth, too, will one day be a fixed star. It will then also be a sun, and the inhabitants of our earth will then exist in the spirit, as the sun’s inhabitants do today. First, however, the moon had to be cast out.
That Sun had in turn evolved from a planet which goes so far back that present-day humanity cannot easily gain an idea of it. This would need a high level of initiation. That planet is called ‘Saturn’. It became Sun, Sun became Moon, and Moon became earth. Earth will change into ‘Jupiter’, Jupiter into ‘Venus’, and Venus into a planet called ‘Vulcan’.
Someone may come and ask: ‘There’s a venus in the heavens today, and also a jupiter. How do all these planets relate to one another?’ It would be quite the wrong idea to think that our present-day humanity has ever been on the saturn which is out there in the cosmos today. It would be like having a child of six and a man aged fifty before us and thinking that the child’s powers could ever pass over to that man. The man has once been a child of six, he has gone through exactly the same stage. And that is how it is with today’s planet saturn. It has nothing to do with earth evolution, but represents the stage at which earth has once been. Just as the fifty-year-old man has once been what the six-year-old boy is today, so our earth has once been in a condition similar to today’s saturn, today’s sun and today’s moon. But if you look at today’s venus, that is the condition in which earth will be in future. The earth will be in that condition one day. The planet venus is not just any heavenly body which man will inhabit one day; no, the earth will be Venus one day. These are generic terms representing the specific stages reached by a planet.
The way they are today, human beings consist of a physical body which has the same substances in it as the whole mineral world. They also have an ether body, which plants also have, an astral body, which animals also have, and an I. If we go back to ancient Saturn, human beings — our physical ancestors — had nothing but the potential for a physical body. The potential for an ether body was added on the Sun, the potential for an astral body on Moon, and the I evolved on earth. This is the meaning of those consecutive stages of development.
On ancient Saturn, nothing existed that would be like a present-day physical human body. When Saturn was at its densest, it was as follows. When I talk, I set the air in wave motion. If you did not need to hear what I am saying, if I were able to set the air in motion without speaking, you would be able to see the wave motions of my words — quite specific movements in the air — you would see images of my words. If you had the context, you would be able to see from those waves what I had been saying. My words are the reason why the air is in motion here. Now just imagine you were able to freeze the air waves at one moment. My words would then fall to the ground, you would have something like oyster shells on the ground and be able to see the shapes of my words in air which had grown solid. This is more or less how you have to visualize the human body, the animal bodies, the plants and mineral crystals on Saturn — dissolved out of their stillness and in an air-like state. For on ancient Saturn all this lived only as a heaving, boiling mass of air. Today’s crystal is boiling Saturn matter that has become solid. It is the same with the plants and animals which existed on ancient Saturn as wave motions in the light, subtle Saturn matter. It was just as if higher spirits were speaking all the plants, creatures and minerals into the Saturn matter, just as I create waves in the air by speaking now. The creative spirits of Saturn set Saturn matter into inner motion, and those were the precursors of later plant, animal and human bodies.
That was the beginning of our evolution — ‘In the beginning was the word.’ The word sounded through Saturn matter and all creation was wave motions in this Saturn matter. Think of Chladni’s figures for an analogy. If you take a brass plate sprinkled with fine sand or dust and make it sound, using a violin bow, you will get all kinds of figures on the plate. This is because you were holding the plate still and playing the bow against it. The movement of the bow creates a sound with specific waves and lines. The dust remains on parts of the plate that do not take up the wave motion and is shaken off elsewhere. You can evoke the figures from the tone colour, as it were, just as once — through the ‘word’ in the beginning — they were spoken into matter. Matter was given inner form and organization according to the laws of sound waves. And little by little solid bodies arose from the sound waves.
On the Sun, the ether body was added, filling part of the forms that had evolved on Saturn with spirit. The form thus filled with spirit progressed to a kind of plant existence. On the Moon, the astral body was added. Here the life forms advanced to a kind of animal existence. On earth, then, came ensoulment with the I. Humanity could only come into being on earth, however, if the predecessor of the earth cast off what has become physical moon matter today. Certain constituents will need to be removed from the earth as evolution continues, so that man may progress to Jupiter existence, to Venus and to Vulcan.
You need to be clear in your minds that in occultism careful distinction is made between the first and second halves of the earth stage, for in its first half, earth passed through Mars. The potential was gathered then to produce warm, red blood. The earth’s iron content comes from Mars, and the incorporation of iron in the blood comes from that passage through Mars. The initiates of ancient Greece and Rome who knew that humanity was given the element of courage, of aggressiveness, with the iron, would therefore refer to Mars as the god of war. The names which astronomers give to newly discovered stars today are chosen at will. In those days the name was still seen as something taken from the nature of the thing. The courageous nature of the soul is thus connected with powers which earth owes to Mars. Mars was therefore given the name of the war god because of the quality of courage. The second half of the earth stage on the other hand is more and more connected with powers which earth will one day owe to Mercury. The connection between earth and Mercury is of a more spiritual nature, however.
The following, then, are the different stages of our planet — Saturn, Sun, Moon, Mars (because that powerful influence came from there), then Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan. This comes to expression in the sequence of weekdays. The initiates referred to the sequence of earth incarnations in the names they gave to the weekdays. You have to start with Saturday, which was the Saturn day. It is still called Saturday in English, Zaterdag in Dutch. Then comes Sunday, Monday, and the Mars day, mardi in French; Ziu was the god of war in old German, hence ‘Ziu's day’, English Tuesday. Wednesday is a more exoteric name in German (Mittwoch = midweek, translator). The ancients called it Mercury day, mercredi in French, Wotanstag in German — because Wotan is a Mercury spirit — Woensdag in Dutch, Wednesday in English. Then we have Jupiter day, French jeudi. For the Germans, Jupiter was Donar, the thunderer, hence Donnerstag. Then came Venus day, French vendredi, German Freyatag. And then it starts again from the beginning, Vulcan being a new Saturn stage.
The human body has to some extent also gone through everything I have been describing to you. The traces of motion that existed on Saturn are now wave motions in the physical body. The development of the physical body in the first seven years is a kind of repetition of Saturn existence which is why occultists call the period from the 1st to the 7th year of life, that is, up to the changing of the teeth, the period of Saturn existence. The same powers are active there which were just beginning to be a possibility at the time when human beings had only developed in their physical body on Saturn. Then the ether body was born and with it the powers connected with Sun existence. The period from the 7th to the 14th or 16th year, when these powers are active, is therefore called our Sun existence. You have to understand that all the powers which were present in the human being at the Sun stage emerge as powers of life coming into flower, that is, as Sun powers, and develop during the period from the changing of the teeth to sexual maturity. This is not without importance, for you will only begin to understand something of the way these human powers relate to the present-day forms of those corresponding stars if you think back on the time when earth itself was a similar star.
The powers active in the child up to the 7th year also relate to today’s Saturn. Here you see the first inner seed of the widespread and tremendous wisdom that has come down to us as astrology from the times of the truly great initiates, a science that is no longer understood today. As there is this inner relationship between Saturn and childhood years, you can now understand how these things are inwardly connected. You can also see how the powers of the Sun itself have gone away. The development which will be important for the human being later on was brought to a conclusion with Moon and earth. The form principles are particularly important for human development from the 7th year to sexual maturity. This will in turn give you the right insight to realize how extraordinarily important it is that where their ether body is concerned, children have a deeper connection with the ‘spiritual sun’, as it is called, exactly at this time.
Here you have the more esoteric connection between the things I referred to in my public lecture. Remember above all that it is particularly important to give children a sense of beauty at this time. If they are not given a sense of beauty at this time, this cannot be made up for later on, because completely different powers will have come into play by then. This period has to do with a feeling for light and shade, and you can’t do better than teach your child to have a feeling for light and shadow. A quite renowned art historian I know 97Grimm, Hermann (1828–1901). 'Again and again I find myself surprised by young people's inability of recognizing what is shown to them in easily understood copper engravings based on he works of Raphael, for instance. When I ask them to tell me something about the whole, or individual figures, they usually having nothing at all to say; they see the things without having any ideas as to what they are. I would not insist that history of art be taught at grammar school; but I do ask how we can explain such marked deficiency in students who have previously been at grammar school.' From 'Die Deutsche Schulfrage und die Deutschen Klassiker' in Fünfzehn Essays / vierte Folge: Aus den letzten fünf Jahren, Gütersloh 1890, S. 61. once complained bitterly: ‘I’m supposed to give lectures on art history. When I try and get people to understand, showing them pictures, they have no idea. Young people come from grammar school and have no feeling for light and shade; they can’t even grasp why a hand is foreshortened. One could build on light and shadow in the widest possible sense, but people are not much inclined to take this up.’
People can only develop a sense of beauty if they come to understand what the Sun does so beautifully on earth, the spiritual deeds of the Sun. This is very important. The Sun spirits live as divine spirits. Because of this, it is also necessary for religious development to begin at this time. This has to do with the development of the human ether body. Just as the Sun was able to take its inhabitants to the level of being spirits in the course of cosmic evolution, so teachers are able to arouse a receptivity, a feeling for the purely spiritual and religious element in children between the changing of the teeth and sexual maturity, for that is the time when the Sun body develops freely in all directions.
From the 14th to the 21st or 23rd year you then have human Moon existence, with above all the astral body coming into its own. This is the period when the drives that must be fought tend to emerge; everything that cannot be purified must be cast off. Things come out that really must sometimes be treated like the moon cinder; things truly have to be cast out, the way it happened with the moon.
We might indeed look more deeply into this time, and we would see how deeply man is connected with the whole world. We would see how because humanity is not able to cast out certain powers that are really moon powers, the terrible diseases develop which are called dementia precox, insanity of the young. This is a specific phenomenon, with symptoms of definite character that indicate how it attaches itself to the astral body which is just in the process of evolving out of the ether body. Try and observe someone who sails into dementia precox in puberty. You get specific symptoms that show a marked tendency to repeat things. The astral body if often very bright, but the way in which the astral body should relate to the ether body is in disorder. So if you were to ask such a person: ‘How much is 5 times 6?’ he’ll say: ‘30.’ ‘How much is 7 times 8?’ ‘30.’ How much is 6 times 9?’ ‘30.’ And so on, always 30. Memory goes haywire, as it were, and you can imagine that he cannot get out of the ether body stage, and cannot let the Moon stage develop in himself. Such aspects make it possible for us to look very deeply into the microcosm.
From the 21st to the 28th or 30th year of life human beings have their Mars existence. This is indeed the time when the courageous character of a person develops, through the blood sphere. It is not for nothing that people are made to serve Mars in exactly these years. To some extent these things happen from instinct. Much is also tradition based on things that people used to know in the spirit before.
Then come periods of preparation for future ages. As the soul is more and more left to itself, it initiates a process in the human being that will happen on the cosmic scale with the earth. Something will drop away from the earth, so that it may rise higher, up to Jupiter. And humanity is beginning with this process today. Here, too, the human being is a microcosm. Something separates off inwardly and develops to the inner freedom we call Mercury existence. This reaches its peak in the 35th year. We speak of mid-life, just as 70 has been called the patriarchal age, not without justification. Human beings thus gain their independence in their 35th year. They enter into the age where they do not merely learn things, but consolidate and strengthen them inwardly. With the will coming in firmly, the human body is left to itself and the inner life consolidates. Now people become counsellors for others around them. Their views now have value for others. Before, they had to follow the world; now the world can follow them. This is important, for many sins are committed in this respect. People above all cause harm to themselves if they start giving advice before they have reached the age of maturity, the middle of life. They will not create so many obstacles for themselves if they feel themselves to be merely students passing on what they have heard, but they will if they present all kinds of things as their own. This will indeed make their best powers ineffective. Knowledge can be acquired earlier, but wisdom is something that has to be developed inwardly. Knowledge is something one must first gather and which may then become wisdom.
The Jupiter age then begins with the 49th year. The soul grows even more free inwardly by leaving the body to itself even more and developing something in itself that contains the best powers for transition to the Venus age which begins in the 63rd or 64th year. The inner life has then consolidated to the point where individuals may have shed all egoism if development has gone well. They then have only love for everything there is in the world. They no longer want to have anything for themselves but are there for others. Today human beings are only developing the very beginnings of this, so that it is difficult to speak of it.
In the science of the spirit we speak of seven stages in the biography. This also shows how man is seen as a microcosm, looking back to a cosmic age that has passed and pointing to future development. Human beings are thus born out of the universe, and not only out of the past, for their whole development also has a prophetic note, something that points to the future. And what is to happen one day in the cosmos is already happening today in human life. It is therefore not entirely wrong to say that we truly get to know our self when we get to know world evolution. Letting the mind’s eye roam from Saturn to Venus, we see in the macrocosm what also happens in our own lives. This is how humanity is connected with the whole cosmos.
If you think of human beings, the way they are now, with their organs spread out in the cosmos, you have an idea that may also be found in an ancient Central European myth. This tells that the whole world was created out of the giant Ymir — the vault of heaven from their skull, the rivers from their blood, mountains from their bones, and so on. The myths of Osiris and Dionysus tell a similar story. Yet when we speak of the original human being as being thus divided up, this means nothing else but that the whole cosmos may be found in man, and when human beings enter into the cosmos they find there their own existence in greatly magnified form. We have to extend our own insight to make it cosmic, and not brood in introspection. Just as we see ourselves in the body in which our soul and our spirit are concentrated, so we may look at the large body which is the widespread image of our own body, seeing it as the divine body, image of the cosmic spirit. In self perception we thus have perception of the world and of God.
Thus man is born out of the godhead and in gaining insight can gradually return to the godhead again. Entering into the cosmos and opening up cosmic existence with all the powers of the human soul — that is the mood which may come to us also from the science of the spirit. Through it, human beings learn to see the world as the great body of the godhead, and they learn how the self has evolved out of this body. If we learn first of all to feel this in our hearts, having gained it through the science of the spirit, this inner feeling will finally be transformed into a feeling of being with God. Though still a long way off, this feeling, this inner experience, will be the completion of what human beings can learn by considering the world in the light of spiritual science.