iv. Transition of the Fourth into the Fifth Root Race
In this chapter we shall learn about the transition of the fourth, the Atlantean root race, into the fifth, the Aryan, to which contemporary civilized mankind belongs. Only he will understand it aright who can steep himself in the idea of development to its full extent and meaning. Everything which man perceives around him is in process of development. In this sense, the use of thought, which is characteristic of the men of our fifth root race, had first to develop. It is this root race in particular which slowly and gradually brings the faculty of thought to maturity. In his thought, man decides upon something, and then executes it as the consequence of his own thought. This ability was only in preparation among the Atlanteans. It was not their own thoughts, but those which flowed into them from entities of a higher kind, that influenced their will. Thus, in a manner of speaking, their will was directed from outside.
The one who familiarizes himself with the thought of this development of the human being and learns to admit that man — as earthly man — was a being of a quite different kind in prehistory, will also be able to rise to a conception of the totally different entities which are spoken of here. The development to be described required enormously long periods of time.
What has previously been said about the fourth root race, the Atlanteans, refers to the great bulk of mankind. But they followed leaders whose abilities towered far above theirs. The wisdom these leaders possessed and the powers at their command were not to be attained by any earthly education. They had been imparted to them by higher beings which did not belong directly to earth. Therefore it was only natural that the great mass of men felt their leaders to be beings of a higher kind, to be “messengers” of the gods. For what these leaders knew and could do would not have been attainable by human sense organs and by human reason. They were venerated as “divine messengers,” and men received their orders, their commandments, and also their instruction. It was by beings of this kind that mankind was instructed in the sciences, in the arts, and in the making of tools. Such “divine messengers” either directed the communities themselves or instructed men who were sufficiently advanced in the art of government. It was said of these leaders that they “communicate with the gods” and were initiated by the gods themselves into the laws according to which mankind had to develop. This was true. In places about which the average people knew nothing, this initiation, this communication with the gods, actually took place. These places of initiation were called temples of the mysteries. From them the human race was directed.
What took place in the temples of the mysteries was therefore incomprehensible to the people. Equally little did the latter understand the intentions of their great leaders. After all, the people could grasp with their senses only what happened directly upon earth, not what was revealed from higher worlds for the welfare of earth. Therefore the teachings of the leaders had to be expressed in a form unlike communications about earthly events. The language the gods spoke with their messengers in the mysteries was not earthly, and neither were the shapes in which these gods revealed themselves. The higher spirits appeared to their messengers “in fiery clouds” in order to tell them how they were to lead men. Only man can appear in human form; entities whose capacities tower above the human must reveal themselves in shapes which are not to be found on earth.
Because they themselves were the most perfect among their human brothers, the “divine messengers” could receive these revelations. In earlier stages they had already gone through what the majority of men still had to experience. They belonged among their fellow humans only in a certain respect. They could assume human form. But their spiritual-mental qualities were of a superhuman kind. Thus they were divine-human hybrid beings. One can also describe them as higher spirits who assumed human bodies in order to help mankind forward on their earthly path. The real home of these beings was not on earth.
These divine-human beings led men, without being able to inform them of the principles by which they directed them. For until the fifth subrace of the Atlanteans, the Primal Semites, men had absolutely no capacities for understanding these principles. The faculty of thought, which developed in this subrace, was such a capacity. But this evolved slowly and gradually. Even the last sub-races of the Atlanteans could understand very little of the principles of their divine leaders. They began, at first quite imperfectly, to have a presentiment of such principles. Therefore their thoughts and also the laws which we have mentioned among their governmental institutions, were guessed at rather than clearly thought out.
The principal leader of the fifth Atlantean subrace gradually prepared it so that in later times, after the decline of the Atlantean way of life, it could begin a new one which was to be wholly directed by the faculty of thought.
One must realize that at the end of the Atlantean period there existed three groups of man-like beings: 1. The above-mentioned “divine messengers,” who in their development were far ahead of the great mass of the people, and who taught divine wisdom and accomplished divine deeds. 2. The great mass of humanity, among which the faculty of thought was in a dull condition, although they possessed natural abilities which modern men have lost. 3. A small group of those who were developing the faculty of thought. While they gradually lost the natural abilities of the Atlanteans through this process, they were advancing to the stage where they could grasp the principles of the “divine messengers” with their thoughts.
The second group of human beings was doomed to gradual extinction. The third however could be trained by a being of the first kind to take its direction into its own hands.
From this third group the above-mentioned principal leader, whom occult literature designates as Manu, selected the ablest in order to cause a new humanity to emerge from them. These most capable ones existed in the fifth subrace. The faculty of the sixth and seventh sub-races had already gone astray in a certain sense and was not fit for further development.
The best qualities of the best had to be developed. This was accomplished by the leader through the isolation of the selected ones in a certain place on earth — in inner Asia — where they were freed from any influence of those who remained behind or of those who had gone astray.
The task which the leader imposed upon himself was to bring his followers to the point where, in their own soul, with their own faculty of thought, they could grasp the principles according to which they had hitherto been directed in a way vaguely sensed, but not clearly recognized by them. Men were to recognize the divine forces which they had unconsciously followed. Hitherto the gods had led men through their messengers; now men were to know about these divine entities. They were to learn to consider themselves as the implementing organs of divine providence.
The isolated group thus faced an important decision. The divine leader was in their midst, in human form. From such divine messengers men had previously received instructions and orders as to what they were or were not to do. Human beings had been instructed in the sciences which dealt with what they could perceive through the senses. Men had vaguely sensed a divine control of the world, had felt it in their own actions, but they had not known anything of it clearly.
Now their leader spoke to them in a completely new way. He taught them that invisible powers directed what confronted them visibly, and that they themselves were servants of these invisible powers, that they had to fulfill the laws of these invisible powers with their thoughts. Men heard of the supernatural-divine. They heard that the invisible spiritual was the creator and preserver of the visible physical. Hitherto they had looked up to their visible divine messengers, to the superhuman initiates, and through the latter was communicated what was and was not to be done. But now they were considered worthy of having the divine messenger speak to them of the gods themselves. Mighty were the words which again and again he impressed upon his followers: “Until now you have seen those who led you: but there are higher leaders whom you do not see. It is these leaders to whom you are subject. You shall carry out the orders of the god whom you do not see; and you shall obey one of whom you can make no image to yourselves.” Thus did the new and highest commandment come from the mouth of the great leader, prescribing the veneration of a god whom no sensory-visible image could resemble, and therefore of whom none was to be made. Of this great fundamental commandment of the fifth human root race, the well-known commandment which follows is an echo: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth . . . ” (Exodus 20:4).
The principal leader, Manu, was assisted by other divine messengers who executed his intentions for particular branches of life and worked on the development of the new race. For it was a matter of arranging all of life according to the new conception of a divine administration of the world. Everywhere the thoughts of men were to be directed from the visible to the invisible. Life is determined by the forces of nature. The course of human life depends on day and night, on winter and summer, on sunshine and rain. How these influential visible events are connected with the invisible, divine powers and how man was to behave in order to arrange his life in accordance with these invisible powers, was shown to him. All knowledge and all labor was to be pursued in this sense. In the course of the stars and of the weather, man was to see divine decrees, the emanation of divine wisdom. Astronomy and meteorology were taught with this idea. Man was to arrange his labor, his moral life in such a way that they would correspond to the wise laws of the divine. Life was ordered according to divine commandments, just as the divine thoughts were explored in the course of the stars and in the changes of the weather. Man was to bring his works into harmony with the dispensations of the gods through sacrificial acts.
It was the intention of Manu to direct everything in human life toward the higher worlds. All human activities, all institutions were to bear a religious character. Through this, Manu wanted to initiate the real task imposed upon the fifth root race. This race was to learn to direct itself by its own thoughts. But such a self-determination can only lead to good if man also places himself at the service of the higher powers. Man should use his faculty of thought, but this faculty of thought should be sanctified by being devoted to the divine.
One can only understand completely what happened at that time if one knows that the development of the faculty of thought, beginning with the fifth subrace of the Atlanteans, also entailed something else. From a certain quarter men had come into possession of knowledge and of arts, which were not immediately connected with what the above-mentioned Manu had to consider as his true task. This knowledge and these arts were at first devoid of religious character. They came to man in such a way that he could think of nothing other than to place them at the service of self-interest, of his personal needs...2For the present it is not permitted to make public communications about the origin of this knowledge and these arts. A passage from the Akasha Chronicle must therefore be omitted here. To such knowledge belongs for example that of the use of fire in human activities. In the first Atlantean time man did not use fire since the life force was available for his service. But with the passage of time he was less and less in a position to make use of this force, hence he had to learn to make tools, utensils from so-called lifeless objects. He employed fire for this purpose. Similar conditions prevailed with respect to other natural forces. Thus man learned to make use of such natural forces without being conscious of their divine origin. So it was meant to be. Man was not to be forced by anything to relate these things which served his faculty of thought to the divine order of the world. Rather was he to do this voluntarily in his thoughts. It was the intention of Manu to bring men to the point where, independently, out of an inner need, they brought such things into a relation with the higher order of the world. Men could choose whether they wanted to use the insight they had attained purely in a spirit of personal self-interest or in the religious service of a higher world.
If man was previously forced to consider himself as a link in the divine government of the world, by which for example, the domination over the life force was given to him without his having to use the faculty of thought, he could now employ the natural forces without directing his thoughts to the divine.
Not all men whom Manu had gathered around him were equal to this decision, but only a few of them. It was from this few that Manu could really form the germ of the new race. He retired with them in order to develop them further, while the others mingled with the rest of mankind. From this small number of men who finally gathered around Manu, everything is descended which up to the present, forms the true germs of progress of the fifth root race. For this reason also, two characteristics run through the entire development of this fifth root race. One of these characteristics is peculiar to those men who are animated by higher ideas, who regard themselves as children of a divine universal power; the other belongs to those who put everything at the service of personal interests, of egotism.
The small following remained gathered around Manu until it was sufficiently fortified to act in the new spirit, and until its members could go out to bring this new spirit to the rest of mankind, which remained from the earlier races. It is natural that this new spirit assumed a different character among the various peoples, according to how they themselves had developed in different fields. The old remaining characteristics blended with what the messengers of Manu carried to the various parts of the world. Thus a variety of new cultures and civilizations came into being.
The ablest personalities from the circle around Manu were selected for a gradual direct initiation into his divine wisdom, so that they could become the teachers of the others. A new kind of initiate thus was added to the old divine messengers. It consisted of those who had developed their faculty of thought in an earthly manner just as their fellow-men had done. The earlier divine messengers — and also Manu — had not done this. Their development belonged to higher worlds. They introduced their higher wisdom into earthly conditions. What they gave to mankind was a “gift from above.” Before the middle of the Atlantean period men had not reached the point where by their own powers they could grasp what the divine decrees were. Now — at the time indicated — they were to attain this point. Earthly thinking was to elevate itself to the concept of the divine. The human initiates united themselves with the divine. This represents an important revolution in the development of the human race. The first Atlanteans did not as yet have a choice as to whether or not they would consider their leaders to be divine messengers. For what the latter accomplished imposed itself as the deed of higher worlds. It bore the stamp of a divine origin. Thus the messengers of the Atlantean period were entities sanctified by their power, surrounded by the splendor which this power conferred upon them. From an external point of view, the human initiates of later times are men among men. But they remain in relation with the higher worlds, and the revelations and manifestations of the divine messengers come to them. Only exceptionally, when a higher necessity arises, do they make use of certain powers which are conferred upon them from above. Then they accomplish deeds which men cannot explain by the laws they know and which therefore they rightly regard as miracles.
But in all this the higher intention is to put mankind on its own feet, fully to develop its faculty of thought. Today the human initiates are the mediators between the people and the higher powers, and only initiation can make one capable of communication with the divine messengers.
The human initiates, the sacred teachers, became leaders of the rest of mankind in the beginning of the fifth root race. The great priest kings of prehistory, who are not spoken of in history, but rather in the world of legend, belong among these initiates. The higher divine messengers retired from the earth more and more, and left the leadership to these human initiates, whom however they assisted in word and deed. Were this not so, man would never attain free use of his faculty of thought. The world is under divine direction, but man is not to be forced to admit this; he is to realize and to understand it by free reflection. When he reaches this point, the initiates will gradually divulge their secrets to him. But this cannot happen all at once. The whole development of the fifth root race is a slow road to this goal. At first Manu himself led his following like children. Then the leadership was gradually transferred to the human initiates. Today progress still consists in a mixture of the conscious and unconscious acting and thinking of men. Only at the end of the fifth root race, when throughout the sixth and seventh sub-races a sufficiently great number of men are capable of knowledge, will the greatest among the initiates be able to reveal himself to them openly. Then this human initiate will be able to assume the principal leadership just as Manu did at the end of the fourth root race. Thus the education of the fifth root race consists in this, that a greater part of humanity will become able freely to follow a human Manu as the germinal race of this fifth root race followed the divine one.