Reading the Pictures of the Apocalypse
Kristiania, May 15, 1909
In order to place the task of our time and our future evolution before our souls we must look at the facts we already know. When we speak of the earth we mean, of course, all of the spiritual beings that belong to it. At the beginning of our evolution the earth was not yet separated from the other bodies in our solar system. We include in our solar system everything up to Saturn; and just as physical science speaks of a large ancient earth, from which the other heavenly bodies have come, so also spiritual science speaks of a large, ancient body called Saturn that reached far out beyond the present earth and encompassed the entire solar system. 1Compare Rudolf Steiner's descriptions in An Outline of Occult Science (GA 13) (Hudson, N.Y.: Anthroposophic Press, 1972), page 114—134. Old Saturn consisted of interweaving, surging warmth. There was no air; the space in which this primal sphere existed was permeated with regular streams of warmth. These streams were the predecessors of human beings. At that time our body consisted of streams of flowing warmth.
We can imagine what this was like if we think away the bones, nerves, and muscles from the human being and keep only the warmth of our blood. Only the human being's warmth substance was present at that time; there was no mineral kingdom, but the human being existed within the lawfulness of the physical, mineral world. That is what we today must clearly feel as the first epoch of our earth evolution.
Then there was a time when the earth had shed old Saturn but the sun, moon, and earth remained together as one body. At that time human beings were present in their bodily nature as forms made of air. All the power that comes from the sun came forth at that time from within the earth. Everything came from within outward. Only after the sun had separated from the earth did it begin to shine upon it from outside. Therefore, we have a second epoch in human evolution when the human being had an existence as a form made of air as well as a plantlike form. [Here there is a big gap in the manuscript. The Moon condition and the Polarian and Hyperborean ages are described.]
Then the third age comes, the Lemurian age, when the moon leaves the earth and the beings of the moon work into the earth from outside it. It would be impossible to think of the carpet of vegetation covering the earth without the forces of the sun and the moon working alternately from outside. If the moon had remained within the earth, then the earth would have become so rigid that the human being would have been hardened in body and soul. Only because the moon was separated from the earth could the earth be placed between the sun and the moon. Otherwise the earth, solely under the forces of the sun, would have entered into a rate of development that was much too fast. We thank our position between sun and moon for the proper tempo of evolution. We have, then, a third stage when the moon is already outside the earth.
These three stages are reflected in the post-Atlantean evolution of humankind. What took place on a grand scale during the evolution of the earth (old Saturn, old Sun, old Moon) is reflected on a smaller scale in the post-Atlantean age. We see how the external, cosmic processes of the so-called Polarian age are reflected in the first post-Atlantean culture, in the ancient Indian epoch. During the Polarian age everything was inward, was within the warmth body of the earth; and we see how the ancient Indians felt all of that in their inner lives. Therefore, their feeling life did not look out into cosmic spaces. They felt themselves rather as one with Brahman.
The Polarian age was followed by the Hyperborean age, with a race of human beings who had airlike bodies. The sun had separated from the earth and now worked from outside. This separation was reflected in the ancient Persian cultural epoch when Zarathustra proclaimed Ahura Mazdao the spirit of the sun. The sun spirit was the guiding and leading principle of the ancient Persian cultural epoch.
The third, the Lemurian age, was reflected during the Egyptian age in the mood of its religion. The teaching of Osiris and Isis can be characterized from the most varied sides and points of view. But what is characteristic of this teaching is the following: In the ancient Lemurian age birth and death did not yet exist. At first, human beings repeated the condition in which they had been when the sun had not yet separated from the earth. At that time they were in a spiritual body. Then, when the sun was no longer united with the earth, they came to the point of having an airlike body; and then the human body was filled with a watery mist. Before the Lemurian age the human being was present only as mist and steam, barely distinguishable from what was flowing all around as mist or fog — changeable like the clouds, constantly changing forms in a way similar to the clouds of today. In these ancient times the human being was not yet altogether on the earth, but rather hovered above it. Pieces of this fine matter were constantly separating off and going away from human beings, welling up and flowing away from them. The condensation of human bodies into solid forms only occurred in the Lemurian age. What we call the succession of incarnations only began to appear with this condensation or “densification” of the human being. Only now are the bodily and soul aspects separated to such an extent that one can say human beings begin to regard the external as opposed to their inner life. Today we distinguish our inner and our outer being as the contradiction between our life of soul and the external world. In the age of the sun, human beings perceived the spiritual beings surrounding them as their external world. Then came the age of the separation of the moon. The external began to separate from the internal. In this way the difference between waking and sleeping arose. Human beings alternated between states when they were exposed to the sun and then were turned away from it. Then the time approached when the human being began to perceive objects on which the sun shone. At night the forces of the moon continually stimulated the life of the soul so that human beings distinguished a time when they perceived the external world and a state when they felt forces that worked through the moon and made them clairvoyant. Human beings said to themselves that through the spirituality that lived in the moon, they could perceive the spiritual world that was inwardly flowing into them through the forces of the moon. The forces of the moon were reflected sun forces that the spiritual world mediated to human beings, while the external world became increasingly perceptible to them during the day.
This was reflected in the ancient Egyptian's feeling life. The sun spirit was characterized as Osiris and the soul that seeks the sun spirit was seen as Isis. Thus, all we have been describing was reflected in the worship of Isis in the ancient Egyptian culture. Hence, the religious life was a worship of the moon. Osiris was a sun spirit residing on the moon. He could be seen clairvoyantly by the souls that sought him. But as the human being descended more and more into the physical bodily nature this bodily nature became like a box to Osiris. As human beings increasingly came to be earth beings in the strict sense, Osiris withdrew more and more.
The Lemurian age was followed by the Atlantean age — which was reflected in the fourth, the Greco-Latin culture. This era had an aspect of the world that had already presented itself cosmically in the Atlantean age. The human being became denser and denser. At the beginning of the human being's evolution the bones were present only as lines of force within. Then the human being became a being of air, and later a gelatinous being. The forms of the skeletal system are increasingly formed. On the other hand the powers of soul were in equal measure greater at that time. The Lemurians, who lived in viscous bodies in ancient times, had powers of soul much greater than those of the following races. It was much the same with the Atlanteans. If cannon balls had existed at that time, for example, such an Atlantean could have simply deflected any cannon ball through the power in his soul even though his physical body was not as dense as bodies are today. In terms of their physical bodily nature, Atlanteans were much thinner than we are today.
There were beings among the Atlanteans for whom it was not necessary to evolve into our dense bodily nature. They were similar to human beings but more highly developed. These beings could pass through their full stage of human existence already in those thin Atlantean bodies. They stand one degree higher than we human beings, for we must descend all the way down into a dense physical bodily nature in order to develop our I consciousness.
A memory of all these beings is reflected in the world of ancient Greek gods and in every aspect of the thinking and feeling of that epoch.
The gods of the European north are, in a similar way, former companions of humankind — but they were not as “densified” as the Greek gods. The ancient Norse bards and singers still knew of them when they allowed what lived within them to speak. In ancient times, the Edda was not needed in order to prove that something like this existed. But if God had not come down to us in the fourth epoch, then human beings would have forgotten their old companions who had been so well remembered by many even into the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
Now we come into our own age. Human beings no longer have any memory of an earlier age. We now have nothing to repeat. We have seen how ancient cultures were always reflected in the previous repetitions. But now in the fifth epoch there is nothing more for humankind to repeat. The world would have become empty if, in the fourth epoch, the Yahweh-Christ-God 2Compare the following lecture excerpt: “Who did Moses see on Sinai in the burning bush and in the fire? Christ! But, just as we do not see the light of the sun directly on the moon but only reflected sunlight. so ton Moses saw a reflection of Christ. And just as we call sunlight that has been reflected by the moon, moonlight, so Christ, at that time was called Yahveh. Therefore, Yahveh is nothing other than the reflection of Christ before he appeared on the earth. So Christ was announced to the human being, who was not yet able to see him in his fundamental, essential being, just as sunlight announces itself through the rays of moonlight at night when, were it not for the full moon, the sky would he dark. Yahveh is Christ, but not seen directly, but rather as reflected light.” Lecture of September 21, 1909, Basel, in The Gospel of St. Luke (GA 114) (Hudson, N.Y.: Anthroposophic Press, 1964). had not come and lived in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. The fifth epoch would have become the godless epoch if Christ had not descended into Jesus of Nazareth's body of flesh.
We see the Polarian age reflected in the ancient Indian age, the Hyperborean in the ancient Persian, the Lemurian in the Egypto-Chaldean, and the Atlantean in the Greco-Latin age. And now we will see the important processes that take place in the etheric and astral bodies of human beings who take into themselves the knowledge of Christ Jesus in our age.