Our bookstore now ships internationally. Free domestic shipping $50+ →

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

The Mission of the Individual Folk Souls
GA 121

6. The five Root Races of Mankind

12 June 1910 a.m., Oslo

It is a very complicated matter, as you may well imagine, when the Spirits of the different Hierarchies have to coordinate their forces in such a way that the mission of the Earth can be fulfilled and ultimately a state of balance or equilibrium be achieved. You will understand therefore that statements such as those made in our last lecture are valid only in so far as they refer to a definite period in evolution and that the whole picture changes immediately one depicts evolution at another period. Hence in order to arrive at a fuller understanding of these complex problems a particular course of lectures cannot be isolated from the rest.

I shall here draw attention to one point only and what I am about to say is to be taken as footnote or addendum to the lectures on the Spiritual Hierarchies.1This lecture-course was given in Dusseldorf, in April 1909, and was entitled: Spiritual Hierarchies and their Reflection in the physical World. Zodiac, Planets, Cosmos. In creating the harmony or equilibrium of our Earth the whole cooperation of the Hierarchies is involved and we must envisage the Spirits of Will, the Cherubim and Seraphim, which we described yesterday as the highest Hierarchy, as raying outward from the Earth. We must envisage these Beings as originally working inward from the Universe towards the centre of the Earth. Man does not become aware of these forces in the former aspect but only in the latter aspect when they are reflected from the Earth's centre.

You will only be able, therefore, to form a complete picture of the very intimate processes which here take place if you compare what was said in my last lecture with the more detailed information about the Hierarchies in the lecture-course given at Dusseldorf, in which a comprehensive picture was given of the cosmic activity of the three Hierarchies. These things are by no means so simple, and in order to make the mission of the Earth comprehensible we must approach this problem in such a way that we are prepared to accept that the Spirits of these Hierarchies are reflected in the elements of Earth existence. If you bear this in mind then you will also sense the infinite wisdom inherent in a universe of relationships. To a certain extent you will also feel that the field of knowledge must be continually enlarged, that it is unlimited, since things are so complicated that when we imagine we have grasped one point of view we immediately reject it in favour of another which throws light on the problem from a different angle. We can only advance step by step in our knowledge: Nevertheless from the indications given in the last lecture) especially at the close of that lecture, you will have a clearer understanding of the cooperation between the normal and abnormal Spirits of Form, a cooperation which ensures that the population of the Earth should not be limited to a single homogeneous species spread over the whole Earth, but that a diversity of individual races should be possible. In order to achieve that corporate humanity, which is only possible to man in the course of Earth-evolution, it would have been necessary for the normal Spirits of Form to act independently. These are the same spiritual Beings who in Genesis are called the Elohim. In the whole Universe which surrounds the Earth and together with the Earth forms a single whole, we can distinguish seven of these normal Spirits of Form. There are therefore seven Spirits of Form or seven Elohim. If we wish to form a conception of these seven Elohim with their various missions and their task of establishing Harmony or Love as the ultimate mission of the Earth, we must clearly understand that these seven Spirits of Form cooperate in such a way that what we described in Lecture Four as “man in the second third of his life” would become a reality. Thus, if all these seven Spirits of Form could work in accordance with their declared intention, then collectively they would fashion the real Ego-being. But as other spiritual Beings cooperate with them and diversify this uniform humanity, it was found necessary to make special preparations in the Cosmos. If today you wish to find in the Cosmos the sphere of activity of the normal Spirits of Form—those Beings who, as I described yesterday, shine down upon us in the light from our present Cosmos—then you must seek for them in the Sun. You must always look towards the Sun sphere for that cosmic “Lodge”, that community in the Universe, where these Spirits of Form plan to establish the earthly harmony and to fulfil the mission of Earth-evolution. Lest the activity of the abnormal Spirits of Form should provoke too great a disharmony amongst mankind, one of the Spirits had to detach Himself from the community. In reality, therefore, only six Spirits of Form or Elohim work from the Sun; one of these Spirits had to detach Himself lest the simultaneous activity of the abnormal Spirits of Form, who are really Spirits of Movement should disturb the balance or harmony. It was the Spirit who in the Bible, in Genesis, is called Jahve or Jehovah. If you wish to follow His activity in the Universe you must look for it, not in the Sun sphere, but in the Moon sphere at a particular epoch. I have touched upon this in my Occult Science—an Outline from another angle, where I have shown that the Spirits of Form withdraw with the separation of the Sun, but in the special disposition following upon the separation of the Moon, the preliminary conditions were first established for the further evolution of man. For if the Moon had remained united with the Earth the evolution of man could not have taken place. This further evolution of man has only been made possible because one of the Elohim, Jahve, accompanied the separation of the Moon—while the other six Spirits remained in the Sun—and because Jahve cooperated with His six colleagues to counteract the forces of the backward Spirits of Movement.

Now the separation of the Sun was a necessity for the following reasons: after certain older Spirits of Movement who possessed more potent forces than the Spirits of Form—for they stand higher in the rank of the Hierarchies—had decided to remain behind, the normal Spirits of Form were obliged to modify their activity by detaching one of their members, otherwise they would not have been able to establish the balance or harmony necessary for further evolution.

If we wish to have a clear idea of the activities of these normal Spirits of Form it is best to think of them as streaming down to us in the sunlight. If, however, we wish to understand how the abnormal Spirits of Form cooperate with the normal Spirits of Form who are centred in the Sun (for Jahve withdrew towards the Moon sphere solely for the purpose of establishing the equilibrium), then we must imagine that a certain Sun-force, which streams towards us in the normal Spirits of Form is modified by the force that rays down to us from the abnormal Spirits of Form who are really Spirits of Movement. These have their centre in the other five planets, in Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury, speaking in terms of the seven heavenly bodies of ancient astronomy.

When you look out into the Cosmos you have now a picture of the distribution of the normal and abnormal Spirits of Form. Six of the normal Spirits of Form are centred in the Sun and one of them, Jahve or Jehovah, from the sphere of the Moon acts as a counterpoise by virtue of this function as Regent and Guide of that sphere. The activities of these Spirits of Form are influenced by the activities proceeding from Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury. The forces of the abnormal Spirits stream down upon the Earth are arrested by the Earth and ray outward again from the Earth-centre as was described at the close of the last lecture.

Thus if the Elohim or normal Spirits of Form, operating from the Sun, are active in a particular region of the Earth's surface, then only the normal ‘I’, that which determines man's normal being, his general make-up, would come into existence in that particular region. Now the forces of Mercury, for example, mingle with these forces of the normal Spirits of Form which, but for the state of equilibrium, would “dance” upon the surface of the Earth. Hence in that which here manifests in the potent forces of the Spirits of Form, there dance and vibrate not only the normal forces but also that which intermingles with the normal forces of the Elohim or Spirits of Form, namely that which emanates from the abnormal Spirits of Form who are centred in the several planets. Thus we see that through these abnormal Spirits of Form there are five potential centres of influence where these reflected planetary forces are concentrated and produce in effect what we know as the five Root Races of the Earth.

Let us now look more closely into the centre which, in Lecture Four, we situated in the interior of Africa. If we state that the Negro race was born of the cooperation between the normal Spirits of Form and the abnormal Spirits of Form centred in Mercury) then from an occult standpoint we are perfectly correct in describing the Negro race as the “Mercury race”.

Let us now continue along the line joining the centres or focal points from which the individual races spread outward. We then come to Asia, which is the seat of the “Venus race” or the Malayan race. We then move northward across the wide expanse of Asia and we find the Mongolian race, which is formed by the Mars forces. Then we cross over into Europe and find the Europeans who in their original racial character are “Jupiter men”. If we cross the ocean to America which is the centre where civilizations or races die, we find there dark “Saturn's race”, the original Red Indian race. The American Indian race is the “Saturn race”. Thus if you look into the matter more closely from an occult standpoint you will become aware of the five centres where the planetary forces are concentrated and are manifested in the external world.

With a progressively more definite and concrete conception of this racial distribution you will develop an inner understanding of the racial characteristics peculiar to the peoples spread over the Earth, an understanding of this unique cooperation of the normal and abnormal Spirits of Form. We have thus sketched the picture, as we are able to capture it at a definite moment in time. But what I have said about the different centres on the Earth is again only valid for a specific epoch of evolution. It is valid for the epoch when, at a definite moment of time in the old Atlantean evolution, the peoples began to migrate from a centre in Atlantis and sought the particular centre where they could receive the: training appropriate to their race. Hence in my book Occult Science, I pointed out that in old Atlantis specific Mystery Centres called the Atlantean Oracles were responsible for directing this distribution of peoples over the Earth, so that in effect that state of balance or equilibrium could be achieved which led to the proper distribution of the races. In one such Mystery Oracle the truths of which we are now speaking were always investigated and originally man took his direction entirely from them. In this manner the events on Earth were determined in accordance with these spiritual centres.

The wave of peoples who swept across Africa and crystallized into the Ethiopian race is an expression of an impulse from the Mercury Oracle in which one could clearly observe the cooperation of the normal Spirits of Form (the six Elohim and Jahve or Jehovah) and also the participation of the abnormal Spirits of Form working from the Mercury Centre. The Centre of equilibrium on Earth was selected in accordance with the right astrological conjunction of planetary forces at the various centres and the point of radiation for the race in question was determined thereby.

The formation of the other races was determined in a similar way. In accordance with these determining factors the grand design is drawn up, charting the cosmic influences in relation to peoples, families, etc. It is an image of cosmic activity and reflects the planetary forces which stream down into the Earth, ray outwards from the Earth and determine man's destiny.

Now how do we look upon a member of the Ethiopian race, of the Mercury race? We see him as one who was originally chosen, who was predestined by the Elohim to express the quintessence of the all-human. But from the Mercury Centre the potent influences of the abnormal Spirits of Form intervened and modified the form of man to such an extent that the Ethiopian race arose. And such was the case with each individual race. The migrations of the peoples were specifically directed from the original centre; this is indicated by the line linking the focal points or centres in my diagram a few days ago. You must therefore imagine the Spirits of Form radiating from a centre, which, we must assume, existed at a definite moment of time in old Atlantis. These Spirits of Form rayed down into the Atlantean continent and fashioned it in such a way that the human souls were brought under the dominion of the corresponding abnormal Spirits of Form.

In this way the broad foundations of the races were laid, and when man looks up into the infinite expanse of the Macrocosm he must seek there the forces out of which he was built up. He is fashioned by their spiritual rays reflected from the Earth-centre. And when he looks up to the normal Spirits of Form, the Elohim, he is looking up to that which actually makes him into man. When he looks up to the forces concentrated in the individual planetary Spirits (with the exception of the Sun and Moon) he perceives the forces which determine his membership of a particular race.

Now how do these Race Spirits work in and upon man? They work in a very unique way; they permeate his vital energies, they penetrate even down into his physical body. Now you know that the four fundamental members of man find their impress and are reflected in corresponding parts of the physical body: the ‘I’ finds its impress in the blood, the astral body in the nervous system, the etheric or life-body in the glandular system. Only the physical body is self-sufficient; it is a reflection of its own inner being which for the man of the present is subject to its own fixed laws.

Now those spiritual Beings who are stirring in man and determine his racial character cannot at first work directly into his higher vehicles. They are active first of all in these reflections of the higher vehicles in the physical body. They cannot as yet enter directly into the physical body, but they are active in the three other members, in the blood which is the reflection of the ‘I’; in the nervous system, the reflection of the astral body; and in the glandular system which is the reflection of the etheric body. The Race Spirits, the abnormal Spirits of Form, are active in these three systems, which are part of man's organic system, but are reflections of the higher vehicles.

Thus the physical body of man is determined from within. These various spiritual Beings invade those members of the physical body, which are the preliminary drafts, the suggestions of the higher vehicles. Now where, for instance, does Mercury make his influence felt? Under Mercury, I include all the abnormal Spirits of Form to be found in Mercury. He makes his influence felt by cooperating with others, especially in the glandular system. He is active in the glandular (or lymphatic) system where are manifested the forces born of that preponderance of the Mercury forces which are present in the Ethiopian race. Everything which gives the Ethiopian race its distinctive character stems from the ferment of the Mercury forces in the glandular system of this people. What transforms the undifferentiated universal human from into the distinctive Ethiopian type with his black pigmentation and woolly or frizzy hair is the consequence of their activity.

If you now move over to Asia you will find there likewise the planetary forces of Venus, an abnormal development of the Spirits of Form. By transferring their point of attack principally to what we call the impress of the astral body, these Venus forces work in the nervous system. They work upon the nervous system however in a peculiar way, not directly as Venus spirits. For the nervous system can be worked upon indirectly in two ways. One way is through the respiration. By working especially upon the respiration, these activities of the Venus Spirits are localized in the respiratory and nervous system and give it a definite form. In this indirect way the abnormal Spirits of Form whom we may call Venus Beings work through the respiratory and nervous system in the Malayan race, in the yellowish-brown races found in Southern Asia and in the direction of the Malay Archipelago. Just as the glandular type is found distributed over Ethiopia, so in these regions is found the type of man in whom the abnormal Spirits of Form work upon the nervous system indirectly through the respiratory system. In the nervous system is prepared that which, with special modifications, produces the more or less yellow skinned racial types. The transformation wrought in these races manifests itself more in that part of the nervous system covered by the term ‘solar plexus’—not in the higher or central nervous system therefore, but in that mysterious part of the nervous system which runs in two cords parallel with the spinal medulla and branches out in various directions to form a network. This part of the nervous system therefore which from our point of view is not yet associated with higher mental activity, is worked upon indirectly through the respiratory system. The unconscious organism is deeply stirred by these Venus forces which work in these racial types.

Let us now move northward to the wide Mongolian plains where are largely concentrated those Spirits of Form who work indirectly through the forces of the blood. In this geographical area is prepared in the forces of the blood that which brings about a modification of the human species and determines the basic character of the race. There is however a very peculiar feature attaching to the Mongolian race; the Mars Spirits enter into the blood. But they work in the blood in a specific manner. They are able to counteract the influence of the six Elohim who are centred in the Sun. In the Mongolian race, therefore, they work in opposition to these six Elohim. At the same time they actively oppose the influence of Jahve or Jehovah who has withdrawn His field of action from that of the six Elohim. But apart from this interaction of the Mars Spirits with the six Elohim and Jahve which produces the Mongolian race there is another factor of paramount importance which must be taken into consideration. Just as in the one case, the Mars Spirits in opposition to the six Elohim from the Sun and Jahve from the Moon create the Mongolian race, so in another case, we must assume that the Jahve forces from the Moon sphere meet and cooperate with the Mars Spirits and thus a special kind of modification arises, namely, the Semitic race. Here is the occult explanation for the origin of the Semites. The Semitic people are an example of a modification of collective humanity. Jahve or Jehovah shuts Himself off from the other Elohim and invests this people with a special character by cooperating with the Mars Spirits, in order to bring about a special modification of his people. You will now understand the peculiar character of the Semitic people and its mission. In a profound occult sense the Biblical writer was able to claim that Jahve or Jehovah had made this people his own. If you add to this the fact that Jahve cooperated with the Mars Spirits who worked principally in the blood, you will understand why racial continuity through the blood-stream was of particular importance to the Semitic-Hebrew people and why Jahve describes Himself as the God who is present in the blood of the generations, in the blood of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. When he declared himself to be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He proclaimed that He was present in the blood stream of the Patriarchs. Whatsoever works in the blood, whatsoever must be determined through the blood—the cooperation with the Mars Spirits—that is one of the mysteries, which give us a deep insight into the wise guidance of all mankind.

The blood of mankind is thus subject to a twofold influence; two races emerge, the Mongolian race and the Semitic race. This points to the existence of an important polarity in mankind and we must emphasize the immense importance of this polarity if we wish to plumb the depths of the Folk Souls.

We must now turn our attention to the Western centre and trace the way in which dynamic forces of the Spirits and Beings who are centred in Jupiter operate in man. These elect to work directly upon the nervous system via the outer life of the senses. This is the one way. In the other, the planetary forces work into the sympathetic nervous system, entering indirectly into the solar plexus through the respiratory system. Now the Jupiter forces work indirectly through the sense-impressions and from there radiate to those parts of the central nervous system which are situated in the brain and spinal cord. Here is the seat of those forces which determine the particular racial character of those races belonging to the Jupiter humanity. This applies more or less to the Aryans, to the peoples of Asia Minor and Europe whom we regard as members of the Caucasian race. In these peoples the modification of the generic character which stems from the abnormal Spirits of Form is accounted for by the influence upon the senses of the abnormal Spirits whom we may describe as Jupiter Spirits. The Caucasians therefore are determined through the senses.

Now you will also understand why a people like the Greeks who were consciously under the special influence of Jupiter or Zeus and who felt themselves to be a focal point for the Zeus influence, were predominantly determined by what flows into the nervous system via the senses. The Greeks, of course, were also influenced by the forces of the Elohim, which stream in from the Sun. But the Greeks dedicated everything that acts upon the senses to the service of Jupiter or Zeus and so achieved greatness. To them all external forms, all forms of external life were imbued with deeper meaning. They perceived the spiritual in the physical and hence became the chief exponents of sculpture and architectonic forms. We have here indicated the very special mission of the Greek people who are so preeminently the people of Jupiter or Zeus. Even at the time when) especially under the influence of the new planetary constellation, the cooperation of the Jupiter or Zeus forces with the universal Elohim forces took place, they felt themselves to be the people of Zeus.

All the peoples of South-West Asia, and especially the European peoples are, on the whole, modifications of this Jupiter influence and you can well imagine that as man has many senses, many modifications are possible and that in the formation of the individual peoples within this root race, peoples who were formed by the influence of the senses upon the nervous system, one or other of the senses may predominate. Consequently the various peoples may assume the most diverse forms. According as the eye or the ear or one of the other senses predominates, so will the different peoples respond in this or that way to the particular national tendency within the racial character. In consequence of this they are faced with quite specific tasks. The particular task of the Caucasian race is to find the way to the spirit through the senses, for this race is orientated chiefly towards the sense-world.

Here is disclosed something that introduces us to the deeper secrets of occultism; it shows how, in those peoples who are subject to the Venus forces, the initial steps in development, even in occult development, must be concentrated on the respiratory system. Amongst the peoples living more in the Western Hemisphere, on the other hand, the initial steps must start from an enrichment and a spiritualisation of the life of the senses. This is experienced by those peoples inhabiting countries more towards the West in their stages of higher cognition, in Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition, in so far as the Jupiter Spirit originally modified the character.

Hence these two geographical centres were always present in human evolution; the one presided over by the Spirits of Venus, the other by those of Jupiter. The Jupiter Spirits in particular were perceived in those Mysteries in which—as those of you will know who attended my lecture-course in Munich last year2The East in the Light of the West. The Children of Lucifer and the Brothers of Christ. Nine lectures given in Munich, 23rd – 29th August, 1909.—the three Individualities ultimately came together, the three spiritual Beings, Buddha, Zarathustra or Zarathas in his later incarnation, and that great leader of humanity, Skythianos. This is the “Council” or spiritual conference which, under the guidance of One still greater, set itself the task of investigating the mysterious forces which must be developed for the evolution of humanity, forces which originated from that centre initially connected with the Jupiter forces and which was pre-ordained in the chart of the cultural centres already mentioned.

Finally, the abnormal Spirits of Form who have their centre in Saturn work indirectly via all the other systems into the glandular system. In the Saturn race, therefore, in everything to which we must ascribe the Saturn character, we must expect to find the combination of the forces leading to the twilight of mankind, forces which set the seal upon its development and sow the seeds of its ultimate decline. This action and its effect upon the glandular system can be seen in the American Indian race and was the cause of its ultimate extinction. The Saturn influence finally works via all the other systems into the glandular system which secretes the hardest parts of man. This slow decline is characterized by a kind of ossification which is clearly reflected in the external form. If you look at the pictures of the old American Indians the process of ossification described above is evident in the decline of this race. In a race such as this everything pertaining to the forces of the Saturn evolution has become realized in a special manner; then Saturn withdrew into itself, abandoned man to his bony system and thus hastened his decline. One feels something of this truly occult activity if one observes how, in the nineteenth century, a representative of these old American Indians still preserves a memory of that great Atlantean civilization which could not adapt itself to later evolution. There exists a description of a beautiful scene in which a chieftain of this moribund Red Indian race confronts a European colonist. Imagine the conflicting emotions when two such men confront each other, the one representing those who came from Europe, and the other those who, in the earliest ages, at the time of the separation of the races, moved Westward. The Red Indian brought over to the West all that was great in the Atlantean culture. What the Red Indian valued most highly was that he was still able dimly to sense something of the former greatness and majesty of a period which existed in the old Atlantean epoch when the separation of the races had hardly begun, when man could look up to the Sun and perceive the Spirits of Form through a sea of mist. Through an ocean of mist the Atlantean was clairvoyantly aware of the seven Spirits of Form acting in concert. And this cooperative activity was called by the Atlanteans the Great Spirit who revealed himself to man in ancient Atlantis. The Atlantean had not assimilated all that the Venus, Mercury, Mars and Jupiter Spirits brought about in the East, to whom we owe all the civilizations which reached their zenith in Europe in the middle of the nineteenth century. The descendant of the brown race did not participate in this development. He held firm to the Great Spirit of the primeval past. He became aware of achievements of the Europeans (who, in a remote past, had also known the Great Spirit) when a piece of paper was laid before him on which were many little symbols, letters, of which he understood nothing. All that was alien to him, for in his soul still dwelt the Great Spirit. The speech he made has been preserved to us and it is noteworthy because it provides evidence of what we have already indicated. It runs somewhat as follows: “Here in the soil, trampled beneath the feet of the conquerors the bones of my brothers lie buried. Why are the feet of our conquerors allowed to desecrate the graves of my brothers? Because they are in possession of that which makes the White Man great. But there is something else which makes the Brown Man great; it is the Great Spirit who speaks to him in the soughing of the wind, in the murmuring of the forest, in the surging of the waves, in the purling of the brook, in thunder and in lightning! That is the Spirit who to us speaks truth. Yes, from the lips of the Great Spirit comes truth. But your spirits here on paper and who express what to you is great, they do not speak the truth.” Thus spoke the Indian chieftain from his point of view. “Redskin is servant of the Great Spirit; Paleface is servant of the spirits who, in black shapes resembling pygmy beings”—he was referring to the letters—“dance on the paper; they do not speak the truth”. This dialogue of historic importance was exchanged between the conqueror and the last of the great chieftains of the Red Indians. Here we have an example of the Saturn forces and their activity and of what follows from the cooperation between Saturn and other Spirits at such a moment as this when two contrasting civilizations meet.

Thus we have seen how here on Earth the birth of universal humanity was prepared by the Elohim or the normal Spirits of Form, how then the five principal races of human evolution detach themselves from the collective body of mankind, from the teaming mass of humanity, and how these five races are related to the guiding Spirits in the Hierarchy of the abnormal Spirits of Form, races whom we must name after the five planets, whereas the normal Spirits of Form are centred in the Sun and in the Moon. From here we shall pass on to something which will be easier to understand, because we shall be able to relate it to something familiar to us, namely, to tribes and peoples.