The Effect of Occult Development Upon the Self and the Sheaths of Man
28 March 1913, The Hague
From a poet who died some years ago. On one occasion, in the second half of the '80s of last century, he said to me that he was very anxious about the future of humanity. I admit that his expression of anxiety was somewhat of a paradox, but he was very much in earnest in his anxiety as to the tendency he wished to point out by his paradox; indeed, this anxiety inclined him to a certain pessimism. It seemed to him that the development of humanity in the future would be such that man would principally develop his head more and more, and that, compared with his head, all the other parts of a man would be stunted. He was very much in earnest over this idea, and he expressed this in paradox by saying that he was afraid the reasoning intellectual nature of man would get the upper hand to such an extent that the head would become like a great globe, and that men would then roll on earth as balls. The anxiety was very real to the man, for he reflected that we are living in the age of intellectualism, of the development of the intellectual powers which are expressed in the head, and that these reasoning powers would increase more and more, and that mankind was moving towards an unenviable future. Now that, of course, is a very paradoxical statement, and we might say also, in a certain sense, that even the anxiety which gave rise to his pessimism is also paradoxical. But the human intellect has a tendency to deteriorate, to draw conclusions when some or other observation has been made, and this is a case in point. This may be amply noticed in the realm of the theosophical movement as well as in the external, exoteric life. In external, exoteric life we do not have to look very far before we notice that the observations made by man at various times have always given rise to a great number of theories. How many hypotheses have been abandoned as worthless in the course of the evolution of humanity! In the theosophical-occult field it can also be observed that someone who has undergone occult training, and has thus acquired some clairvoyant power, may recount something from true clairvoyant observation, and then come the theorists who invent all sorts of schemes and theories, and so the matter develops. Very often the observation is quite an insignificant one, but the schemes and theories built upon it include whole worlds. That is always the danger; the intellect has this tendency. We have this tendency in a fairly passable sense in the well-known book, ‘Esoteric Buddhism’ by Sinnett. This book is based upon a number of genuine occult facts; these are in the middle of the book, and relate to the middle of the development of the earth. But upon these facts he built up a scheme of Rounds and Races, and this only rolls and turns, as it were, upon itself, always more or less in the same way. They are inferences, theories, made from the few genuine data to be found in the book. And this was the case also with my poet. In the background he had a sort of unconscious, instinctive imagination which told him something true; we might say, there is half an ounce of truth, and from this he made a hundred-weight, or many hundred-weight. We often find cases such as this in the world. Now, what is the truth of the matter? The truth is this, that in our age man's head is undergoing a certain evolution, the formation of the head, the whole structure of the head will undergo change in the future. If we direct our attention to a very far-distant period in the earth's evolution, we have to imagine that, for example, the formation of the human forehead, nose, and jaws will have undergone essential changes, and that, in a certain sense, all the rest which the human being bears as his earthly organism will have retrograded; but, of course, never, during the earth period, will the relation of the developing head to the rest of the body be that of a rolling globe. This must only be taken literally to a very, very limited extent. On the other hand, in ancient epochs of development on the earth, before the middle of the Atlantean epoch, the rest of the human organism was capable of change; it was engaged in a sort of development. Apart from the head, the human organism has changed comparatively little — and again I say comparatively little — since the middle of the Atlantean epoch; on the other hand, prior to that time the remainder of the human organism underwent great changes. From this you will be able to draw the inference — which will now be correct, because it is nothing but an actual observation clothed in words — that the further we go back into the Atlantean and Lemurian epochs the more essentially different man looked, even to his own observation. In the ancient Lemurian epoch, man looked quite different from what he now recognises as himself at the present day.
The appearance man would have presented to himself in the latter portion of the Lemurian epoch is apparent to him again, in a certain way, when he gradually approaches the clairvoyant impression leading to what we have described as the Paradise-Imagination. I have, indeed, told you — and it is true — that this Paradise-Imagination corresponds to a complete delineation of the human being, the physical human body, so to say, as the Paradise itself. Man separated — as it were — he divided; the present corporeal nature appeared outspread in the manner described; but at that time, the actual time to which we look back clairvoyantly, and we have the Paradise Legend before us, a mighty leap forward was made. And through this movement — which may also be observed by means of clairvoyance — what might be called the outspread human being was drawn together relatively rapidly into that which then became the starting-point of man for the development which followed. Directly after the time corresponding to the Paradise-Imagination, the form of man was, however, quite unlike what has developed out of it to-day. And, fundamentally, all that surrounded man in the kingdoms of nature was also quite unlike his present surroundings.
I have already mentioned in the previous lectures of this course that the pupil might attain to this Paradise-Imagination if he were suddenly to become clairvoyant for a moment during sleep, and to look back, as it were, at his physical body and etheric body, stimulated to this Imagination by these. On the whole, it may be said that a great deal of esoteric development is necessary before attaining to this Paradise-Imagination. The student must have gained many victories in order to transform his own personal interests into those common to humanity and the world. There then comes, when from the very deepest sleep — for there are degrees of sleep — he passes to a less deep sleep, and in this less deep sleep becomes clairvoyant — there comes what later in earthly evolution became reality: The condition of man in the ancient Lemurian epoch after he had made the great leap forward.
Thus we say that it is possible to see this primeval period of the earth through separation in the self and astral body from the physical body and etheric body, looking back at them. Now, as the order of nature comes to our aid — for in the night we are outside our physical body — we can make use of this arrangement of nature, and so regulate the training that, as if awaking out of sleep, but not returning to the physical body — as if awaking in a different state of consciousness — we see the physical body. From this you will be able to gather that the vision we have just spoken of provides the only true possibility of learning to know how man was formed in the primeval past.
In the far-distant future will come a time when we shall be able to say: How extraordinary were those people of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries! They believed themselves able to discover the origin of man by means of the external investigation of nature; they thought they could draw conclusions regarding the ancestry of man from the observation of the animals surrounding them on the physical plane. However, through the true development of human knowledge, it becomes evident that we can only arrive at a true idea of the origin of man upon the earth, and of his ancient form, by means of clairvoyant observation, and that we can never obtain insight into what man was like in the Lemurian epoch, for example, except through clairvoyant observation, through the retrospective vision stimulated by the impressions of one's own physical body and etheric body. But then it will be seen — this will be admitted in that future time — that man was never like any of the animal forms about him in the nineteenth or twentieth centuries; for the forms which man had in that time, and which manifest themselves to his clairvoyant consciousness in the way we have described, are different from all the animal forms around man in the nineteenth century. And even the expressions we have made use of — bull, lion, etc. — are only used comparatively. The men of the future will say how very grotesque it is to see the way people in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries traced back their ancestry to ape-like beings; for in the Lemurian epoch there were no apes at all in the form in which they later appeared upon earth; they only originated at a much later period, from degraded and degenerated human forms. Animal beings which may be compared to our present apes can only be found by clairvoyant vision about the middle of the Atlantean epoch of the earth's evolution. The further we go back in the development of humanity, the more we see that to the clairvoyant view, in the vision of our self during sleep in the night, our shape, our form in ancient times is to some extent preserved. And so it comes about that, when a student thus looks at himself, he learns to recognise his physical corporeality in an infinitely more delicate etheric body, one might say, though not in the sense of our present ether. Thus does man appear. His form appears more as a vivid dream-picture than as the form of flesh and blood he now bears. We have to become acquainted with the idea that when the self and astral body are outside the human being they can scarcely see the head; it is quite shadowy; not completely blotted out, but quite shadowy. On the other hand, the rest of the organisation of man is distinct. That is shadowy, too, but its condition is such that the human being does not appear as made of flesh and blood, but one has the distinct impression that he possesses a more powerful organisation. It may appear paradoxical, yet it is true that when a man looks at himself clairvoyantly in sleep he has at certain moments such an appearance — that is, to the self and astral body, his physical body and etheric body present such an appearance — that he is reminded of the form of the Centaur! The upper part, which appears in the Centaur as the human part, bears the human face, but in a very shadowy form; the other part, which is not exactly like any of our present animal forms, but which is reminiscent of them in certain respects, is more powerful, and the seer says to himself: ‘To the spiritual view this is stronger, even denser, than our present form of flesh and blood.’ I have already touched upon these matters in a previous course of lectures; but you must understand that all these Imaginations, except the Paradise-Imagination, are fugitive, and can be presented from different aspects. I might also present a somewhat different aspect — and you would see that this only corresponds to a different period of development — and then we should arrive at the form of the Sphinx. The consecutive order of the evolution of man is presented in various aspects, in different views. The mythological pictures, the so-called mythological symbols, contain much more truth than the fantastic intellectual combinations made by present-day science.
Thus, at night the human figure becomes very peculiar. Something else now becomes clear. When we consider with clairvoyant eye this lower part which reminds us of an animal, we become acquainted with something which makes a very definite impression upon us; as I observed in the last lecture, these impressions, these inner experiences, are really the essential thing. The pictures are important, but the inner experiences are still more so. We reach an impression so that we know afterwards: That which really drives me during the day to my personal interests alone, that which inoculates my soul with merely personal interests, is the outcome of what I observe at night as my lower animal part. During the day I do not see it; but it is within me as forces, and these are the forces which draw me down to a certain extent, and lead me astray into personal interests.
Developing this impression more and more brings us to the recognition of the place Lucifer really fills in our evolution. The further we direct our clairvoyant vision back towards the time that corresponds to the Paradise-Imagination, the more beautiful becomes the structure, which is really only reminiscent in a later time of what belongs to the animal — kingdom. And if we go back altogether into what belongs to Paradise, where the animal continuation of man appears as though separated from man himself, and multiplied into — bull, lion, and eagle, we may then say that these forms — which we know in those ancient times by these names — may also in a certain sense be for us symbols of beauty. More and more beautiful become these forms, and, going still further back, to the time of which we spoke in the last lecture, when we represented the impression of the sacrifice, we arrive at the period when Lucifer's true form appears to us in sublime beauty, just as he wished to preserve himself unchanged in the evolution from the ancient Moon to the earth.
From the account I have given in ‘Occult Science,’ you know that on ancient Moon the astral body was given to man. What we bear within us in our astral body played a great part on the ancient Moon. We have described it as personal selfhood, as egotism. This egotism had to be implanted in man on the ancient Moon, and, as man received his astral body on the ancient Moon, egotism has its seat in the astral body; and, as Lucifer has preserved his Moon-nature, he has brought egotism to the earth as the inner soul-quality of his beauty. Therefore, on the one hand he is the Spirit of Beauty, and on the other the Spirit of Egotism. And what we may call his error is only this: that he has transplanted to the earth something which, as far as man is concerned, if I may use the expression, belonged to the ancient Moon; that is, the permeating and impregnating of himself with egotism. But thereby, as has often been said, was given to man the possibility of becoming a self-contained, free being, which he never would have become if Lucifer had not carried over egotism from the Moon to the Earth.
Thus inner experience teaches us to know Lucifer as the Night Spirit, as it were. And it is part of the change that goes on in our self and our astral body that at night we feel — ourselves in the company of Lucifer.
You may perhaps at first think — if you only think superficially — that it must be disagreeable to a person, when he goes to sleep and becomes clairvoyant, to become aware that — during the night he comes into Lucifer's company. But if you reflect more deeply, you will soon come to the conclusion that it is wiser for us to learn to recognise Lucifer; it is better to know that we are in his company than to think that he is not there, and yet have him invisibly active with his forces within us, as, indeed, is the case during the day. The evil does not consist in Lucifer's being by our side, for we gradually learn to recognise him as the Spirit who brings — us freedom; the evil consists in our not recognising him. But after men had caught sight of him, as it were, when he misled them in the Lemurian epoch, they were not permitted to see him any more; for then, in addition to that original misleading in the Lemurian epoch, there would have been innumerable other smaller misleadings. Therefore, the divine-Spiritual Being who was watching over the progress of mankind had to draw a veil over the vision of the night. Thereby man lost as well all else that he would have seen during sleep. Sleep covers from man with darkness the world in which he is from the time of his going to sleep until he awakens. At the withdrawal of the veil which covers the night with darkness, we should instantly perceive Lucifer by our side. If man were strong enough, this would do no harm; but as at first he could not be strong in the sense required by our earthly development, this veil had to be drawn during his sleep at night. After the first great misleading, which left in its train the possibility of human freedom, no other misleadings, through the direct vision of Lucifer from the time of his going to sleep until reawakening, were to come to man.
Now, there is an equivalent. We cannot see Lucifer at night if during the day we do not see his comrade, Ahriman. Thus to the student who has progressed as far as this in the development of his self and his astral body, the daily experience which allows him to have the vision of outer objects becomes different from what it is to the ordinary man. He learns to recognise that he sees things in a different light from before the development of his self and his astral body. He first learns to look upon certain impressions, which ordinarily he considered in an abstract manner, as the activities of the Ahrimanic beings. Thus that which comes from outside, which awakens desire in him from outside — not that which comes from within, for that is Luciferic — but that which attracts him in the objects and beings around him, so that he follows this attraction from personal interests; in short, all that entices him to enjoyment from outside he learns to recognise as bearing the impress of Ahriman. We also learn to recognise this in all that rouses fear within us from outside. They are the two poles — enjoyment and fear. Around us are the so-called material world and the so-called Spiritual world; both these in our ordinary waking life are enveloped in illusion. The external world of the senses appears as maya, or illusion, for people do not see that whenever they are stimulated to enjoyment by outer objects and beings Ahriman peeps out and calls forth the enjoyment in the soul. But the fact that there is a true Spiritual nature everywhere in matter — which the materialists deny — that produces fear, and when the materialists notice that fear is beginning to appear from the astral depths of their soul, they then stupefy themselves, and think out materialistic theories; for what the poet says is profoundly true, ‘People never notice the devil (that is Ahriman), even when he has them by the collar.’ To what end are materialistic meetings held? In order to swear allegiance to the devil. This is literally true, only they do not know it. Whenever materialists gather together to-day, to explain in beautiful theories that nothing exists but matter, Ahriman then has them by the collar; and there is no more favourable opportunity for studying the devil to-day than by going to a gathering of materialists or monists. Thus, when a man has undergone a certain development in his astral body and self, Ahriman accompanies him at every step. When we begin to see him, then we can protect ourselves from him; we can see Ahriman spying out in the allurements of enjoyment and in the impressions of fear.
Again, on account of the immaturity of man, it was necessary that Ahriman should be hidden; that is, a veil was drawn over his nature. This was done somewhat differently from in the case of Lucifer; the outer world was plunged into maya for man, giving him the illusion that outside in the world, instead of Ahriman peeping out, there was matter everywhere. Wherever man dreams there is matter, there is, in reality, Ahriman; and the greatest illusion is the materialistic theory of physics about the material atoms, for in reality these are nothing but the forces of Ahriman.
Now, humanity as a whole is developing, evolving, and this evolution advances so that towards our future man will actually develop the powers of pure intellect more and more. This will cause his head to assume a different shape externally. In a certain respect the beginning of this development towards intellectuality was made with the dawn of modern natural science, about the sixteenth century. When intensified, this intellectual development will exercise great influence upon the self and the astral body of man. A time set in when there still remained traditions of the old clairvoyance. These came in contact with one another exactly at the dawn of our modern natural science. It was precisely in the sixteenth century; it was then known that a future would come when, through the higher development of the self and astral body, man would be able really to see Ahriman more and more clearly. Then, because in the early period of intellectual development it struggled against the perception of the Spiritual with all its might, a darkening set in; but in the figure of Mephistopheles, who is none other than Ahriman, at the side of Faust, the sixteenth century was able to point out that, fundamentally, Ahriman will become more and more dangerous in a conscious manner to the future development of humanity; that Mephistopheles will become more and more a sort of tempter of the human race. At that time this could only be demonstrated because man still had a remembrance of the ancient Spiritual figures. But this has now been forgotten by the general body of humanity, though in the future the knowledge will be forced on man that through all his waking life he is accompanied by Ahriman-Mephistopheles. Naturally, this corresponds to the complementary picture that man is living towards a future when, each time he awakes, he will have — at first like a fleeting dream, but later more clearly — the impression: ‘Thy companion during the night was Lucifer.’ You see from this that through the theosophical-occult development of the self and astral body we may have the fore-knowledge of what will come to humanity in the future, we can dimly sense the companionship of Ahriman and Lucifer. Through a definite law of evolution, Lucifer first came to man during the Lemurian epoch, then later, as the consequences of the Luciferic influence, came the Ahrimanic. In the future this will be reversed: The Ahrimanic will first be strong, and subsequently the Luciferic influence will be added. In the ever-developing clairvoyant conditions of the human soul, the Ahrimanic influence will work principally in the waking condition, the Luciferic influence principally during sleep, or in all the conditions which are indeed similar to sleep, but in which there is consciousness.
Thus, as Ahriman entered our external sensible life in our waking condition, man first needed a protection against Ahriman during this waking condition. These protective impulses are given in the development of humanity many, many centuries before the danger appears. Although the general body of humanity has not yet developed the full consciousness of Ahriman-Mephistopheles, the protective impulse came at the beginning of our era in the physical appearance of Christ in the earth-development. Christ once appeared in the physical body in the earth-development to make provision that man might be armed, through receiving the Christ-impulse, against the necessary influence which will come from Ahriman-Mephistopheles. The power through which man will be armed later on when the Luciferic influence is there, is an influence which will affect a different consciousness; man will be armed against this by the appearance of Christ in the etheric body, regarding which we have often said that it is drawing near. Just as Christ appeared once in a physical body and thence his impulse has proceeded further, so from this twentieth century onward Christ will be seen in an etheric form, at first by a small number, and then by an ever-increasing number of human beings. Thus we see that the progressive development of man is brought about by a kind of equilibrium; a kind of balancing of the different impulses. What is related in the Gospels as the story of the Temptation, the confronting of Lucifer and Ahriman by Christ, portrayed in different ways in the different Gospels — I have spoken of this on a previous occasion — is a sign that through the Christ-Impulse, through the Mystery of Golgotha, man will be able to find the right way of development in the future. It forms part of a true development of the self and the astral body of man that in this transformed self and astral body he can receive the impressions of the positions occupied by Ahriman, Lucifer, and Christ in the development of humanity, and a correct development of the self and astral body leads to this knowledge of the three impulses which condition the evolution of mankind.
A correct development, however, includes the extension of the sense of self in the astral body to interests common to humanity and the world. And it acts like poison when a man carries his personal aspirations into those regions of his clairvoyant observation which he ought only to observe when filled with interests common to humanity and the world. He cannot then perceive the truth, but has imaginations which are incorrect, untrue, which are only the reflections of his own personal interests and aspirations. It may sometimes happen that a clairvoyant who is still filled with personal aspirations and interests experiences something like the following. I received a letter in which someone wrote that he had to communicate something that I ought to know. He said that Christ was reborn in a physical body, and his address is somewhere in London, W.; that Mary is reborn in a physical body; her address is that of his niece, in such-and-such a street. Paul is reborn, and was his brother-in-law, and his address was also given. And all those mentioned in the Gospels were reborn among the relatives, and in this letter all their various addresses were given. I could show this letter to anyone: it is a document — grotesque as it may appear — which shows the effect of carrying personal interests into those heights where there should only be the interests of the world and of humanity.
But now we must clearly understand that when someone makes a mistake in abstract intellectual knowledge in general, this kind of error can easily be controlled, it is something that can be done away with comparatively quickly, although, indeed, human knowledge has the frightful origin, which was referred to in the last lecture. As the knowledge of man, which is expressed in our waking daily life, receives such diluted impulses that everyone may develop perfect freedom with respect to them, hence no one need be dazzled by the foolish things thought out by human intellect, and those who allow themselves to be dazzled by these foolish imaginings can be cured in a comparatively short time. But suppose that in this clairvoyant observation a person arrives at incorrect imaginations in the manner we have described; these incorrect imaginings then act as a poison in the soul in a certain way; they poison it by obliterating the healthy human reason and intellectual grasp. Thus they injure one much more deeply than do merely intellectual follies. If, therefore, we try to permeate everything obtained in the fields of occultism with the forms of sound human intellect, we do well. If an Imagination is simply given out, without any attempt to justify it, as we have tried to justify such in this course of lectures (and incorrect imaginations would only be cited as mere imaginations), then this will impose upon the very faculty in others which should bestir itself to reject such imaginations. And it might very well be that, while one who spreads intellectual follies may easily provoke criticism, one who spreads false imaginations by this means takes away from those who believe in him the power to criticise; that is, he blinds them to the challenge that ought to be given to the imaginations in question.
From this we may gather, my dear friends, how very necessary it is that the moment the knowledge goes beyond what is intended for man in the natural course of evolution, the moment a man uplifts himself to clairvoyant knowledge, how unconditionally necessary it is that his development should move unswervingly towards interests common to humanity and the world. This will always be recognised in true occultism. And to assert the opposite, that there can be sound entry into the Spiritual world, that is, a sound development of the astral body and the self apart from the extension of the human interests to selfless world-interests and interests common to humanity; that is, to make the opposite affirmation to the one made here, could only spring from a disposition that permeates occultism with frivolity. We must bear in mind the serious importance of these things in speaking of the changes which take place in the astral body and the Self of man during his higher Spiritual development.