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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Cosmic Memory
GA 11

v. The Lemurian Race

A passage from the Akasha Chronicle referring to a very distant prehistoric period in the development of mankind, will be set forth in this chapter. This period precedes the one depicted in the descriptions given above. We are here concerned with the third human root race, of which it is said in theosophical books that it inhabited the Lemurian Continent. According to these books this continent was situated south of Asia, and extended approximately from Ceylon to Madagascar. What is today southern Asia and parts of Africa also belonged to it.

While all possible care has been taken in the deciphering of the Akasha Chronicle it must be emphasized that nowhere is a dogmatic character to be claimed for these communications. If, to begin with, the reading of things and events so remote from the present is not easy, the translation of what has been seen and deciphered into the language of today presents almost insuperable obstacles.

Dates will be given later. They will be better understood when the whole Lemurian period and also the period of our fifth root race up to the present, have been discussed.

The things which are communicated here are surprising even for the occultist who reads them for the first time—although the word “surprising” is not quite exact. Therefore he should only communicate them after the most careful examination.

The fourth, the Atlantean root race, was preceded by the so-called Lemurian. During its development, events of the very greatest importance occurred with respect to the earth and to men. Here, however, something will first be said of the character of this root race after these events, and only then will the latter be discussed. By and large, memory was not yet developed among this race. While men could have ideas of things and events, these ideas did not remain in the memory. Therefore they did not yet have a language in the true sense. Rather what they could utter were natural sounds which expressed their sensations, pleasure, joy, pain and so forth, but which did not designate external objects.

But their ideas had a quite different strength from those of later men. Through this strength they acted upon their environment. Other men, animals, plants, and even lifeless objects could feel this action and could be influenced purely by ideas. Thus the Lemurian could communicate with his fellow-men without needing a language. This communication consisted in a kind of “thought reading.” The Lemurian derived the strength of his ideas directly from the objects which surrounded him. It flowed to him from the energy of growth of plants, from the life force of animals. In this manner he understood plants and animals in their inner action and life. He even understood the physical and chemical forces of lifeless objects in the same way. When he built something he did not first have to calculate the load-limit of a tree trunk, the weight of a stone; he could see how much the tree trunk could bear, where the stone in view of its weight and height would fit, where it would not. Thus the Lemurian built without engineering knowledge on the basis of his faculty of imagination which acted with the sureness of a kind of instinct. Moreover, to a great extent, he had power over his own body. When it was necessary, he could increase the strength of his arm by a simple effort of the will. For example, he could lift enormous loads merely by using his will. If later the Atlantean was helped by his control of the life force, the Lemurian was helped by his mastery of the will. He was—the expression should not be misinterpreted—a born magician in all fields of lower human activities.

The goal of the Lemurians was the development of the will, of the faculty of imagination. The education of children was wholly directed toward this. The boys were hardened in the strongest manner. They had to learn to undergo dangers, to overcome pain, to accomplish daring deeds. Those who could not bear tortures, who could not undergo dangers, were not regarded as useful members of mankind. They were left to perish under these exertions. What the Akasha Chronicle shows with respect to this raising of children surpasses everything contemporary man can picture to himself in his boldest imaginings—The bearing of heat, even of a searing fire, the piercing of the body with pointed objects, were quite common procedures.

The raising of girls was different. While the female child was also hardened, everything else was directed toward her developing a strong imagination. For example, she was exposed to the storm in order calmly to feel its dreadful beauty; she had to witness the combats of the men fearlessly, filled only with a feeling of appreciation of the strength and power she saw before her. Thereby propensities for dreaming and for fantasy developed in the girl, and these were highly valued. Because no memory existed, these propensities could not degenerate. The dream or fantasy conceptions in question lasted only as long as there was a corresponding external cause. Thus they had a real basis in external things. They did not lose themselves in bottomless depths. It was, so to speak, nature's own fantasy and dreaming which were put into the female soul.

The Lemurians did not have dwellings in our sense, except in their latest times. They lived where nature gave them the opportunity to do so. The caves which they used were only altered and extended insofar as necessary. Later they built such caves themselves and at that time they developed great skill for such constructions. One must not imagine, however, that they did not also execute more artful constructions. But these did not serve as dwellings. In the earliest times they originated in the desire to give to the things of nature a man-made form. Hills were remodeled in such a way that the form afforded man joy and pleasure. Stones were put together for the same purpose, or in order to be used for certain activities. The places where the children were hardened were surrounded with walls of this kind.

Toward the end of this period, the buildings which served for the cultivation of “divine wisdom and divine art” became more and more imposing and ornate. These institutions differed in every respect from what temples were later, for they were educational and scientific institutions at the same time. He who was found fit was here initiated into the science of the universal laws and into the handling of them. If the Lemurian was a born magician, this talent was here developed into art and insight. Only those could be admitted who, through all kinds of discipline, had acquired the ability to overcome themselves to the greatest extent. For all others what went on in these institutions was the deepest secret. Here one learned to know and to control the forces of nature through direct contemplation of them. But the learning was such that in man the forces of nature changed into forces of the will. He himself could thereby execute what nature accomplishes. What later mankind accomplished by reflection, by calculation, at that time had the character of an instinctive activity. But here one must not use the word “instinct” in the same sense in which one is accustomed to apply it to the animal world. For the activities of Lemurian humanity towered high above everything the animal world can produce through instinct. They even stood far above what mankind has since acquired in the way of arts and sciences through memory, reason and imagination. If one were to use an expression for these institutions which would facilitate an understanding of them, one could call them “colleges of will power and of the clairvoyant power of the imagination.”

From them emerged the men who, in every respect, became rulers of the others. Today it is difficult to give in words a true conception of all these conditions. For everything on earth has changed since that time. Nature itself and all human life were different, therefore human labor and the relationship of man to man differed greatly from what is customary today.

The air was much thicker even than in later Atlantean times, the water much thinner. And what forms the firm crust of our earth today was not yet as hard as it later became. The world of plants and animals had developed only as far as the amphibians, the birds, and the lower mammals, and as far as vegetable growths which resemble our palms and similar trees. However, all forms were different from what they are today. What now exists only all in forms was then developed to gigantic sizes. At that time our small ferns were trees and formed mighty forests. The modern higher mammals did not exist. On the other hand a great part of humanity was on such a low stage of development that one cannot but designate it as animal. What has been described here was true only of a small part of mankind, The rest lived their life in animalism. In their external appearance and in their way of life these animal men were quite different from the small group. They were not especially different from the lower mammals, which resembled them in form in certain respects.

A few more words must be said about the significance of the above-mentioned temple localities. What was cultivated there was not really religion. It was “divine wisdom and art.” Man felt that what was given to him there was a direct gift from the spiritual universal forces. When he received this gift he considered himself a “servant” of these universal forces. He felt himself “sanctified” from everything unspiritual. If one wishes to speak of religion at this stage of the development of mankind, one could call it “religion of the will.” The religious temper and dedication lay in the fact that man guarded the powers granted to him as a strict, divine “secret,” and that he led a life through which he sanctified his power. Persons who had such powers were regarded by others with great awe and veneration. And this awe and veneration were not called forth by laws or something similar, but by the immediate power which these persons exercised. The uninitiated of course stood under the magical influence of the initiated. It was also natural that the latter considered themselves to be sanctified personages. For in their temples they participated in direct contemplation of the active forces of nature. They looked into the creative workshop of nature. They experienced a communion with the beings which build the world itself. One can call this communication an association with the gods. What later developed as “initiation,” as “mystery,” emerged from this original manner of communication of men with the gods. In subsequent times this communication had to become different, since the human imagination, the human spirit, took other forms.

Of special importance is something which occurred in the course of Lemurian development by virtue of the fact that the women lived in the manner described above. They thereby developed special human powers. Their faculty of imagination which was in alliance with nature, became the basis for a higher development of the life of ideas. They took the forces of nature into themselves, where they had an after-effect in the soul. Thus the germs of memory were formed. With memory was also born the capacity to form the first and simplest moral concepts.

The development of the will among the male element at first knew nothing of this. The man followed instinctively either the impulses of nature or the influences emanating from the initiated.

It was from the manner of life of the women that the first ideas of “good and evil” arose. There one began to love some of the things which had made a special impression on the imagination, and to abhor others. While the control which the male element exercised was directed more toward the external action of the powers of the will, toward the manipulation of the forces of nature, beside it in the female element there developed an action through the soul, through the inner, personal forces of man. The development of mankind can only be correctly understood by the one who takes into consideration that the first progress in the life of the imagination was made by women. The development connected with the life of the imagination, with the formation of memory, of customs which formed the seeds for a life of law, for a kind of morals, came from this side. If man had seen and exercised the forces of nature, woman became the first interpreter of them. It was a special new manner of living through reflection which developed here. This manner had something much more personal than that of the men. One must imagine this manner of the women to have been also a kind of clairvoyance, although it differed from the magic of the will of the men. In her soul woman was accessible to another kind of spiritual powers. The latter spoke more to the feeling element of the soul, less to the spiritual, to which man was subject. Thus there emanated from men an effect which was more natural-divine, from women one which was more soul-divine.

The development which woman went through during the Lemurian period had the result that at the appearance of the next—the Atlantean—root race on earth, an important role devolved upon her. This appearance took place under the influence of highly developed entities, who were familiar with the laws of the formation of races and capable of guiding the existing forces of human nature into such paths that a new race could come into being. These beings will be specially mentioned further on. May it suffice for the moment to say that they possessed superhuman wisdom and power. They now isolated a small group out of Lemurian mankind and designated these to be the ancestors of the coming Atlantean race. The place where they did this was situated in the tropical zone. Under their direction the men of this group had been trained in the control of the natural forces. They were very strong, and knew how to win the most diverse treasures from the earth. They could cultivate the fields and use their fruits for their subsistence. They had become characters of strong will through the discipline to which they had been subjected. Their souls and hearts were developed only in small measure. On the other hand these had been developed among the women. Memory and fantasy and everything connected with them were to be found among the latter.

The above-mentioned leaders caused the group to divide itself into smaller groups. They put the women in charge of ordering and establishing these groups. Through her memory, woman had acquired the capacity to make the experiences and adventures of the past useful for the future. What had proved helpful yesterday she used today and realized that it would also be useful tomorrow. The institutions for communal life therefore emanated from her. Under her influence the concepts of “good and evil” developed. Through her thoughtful life she had acquired an understanding for nature. Out of the observation of nature, those ideas developed in her according to which she directed the actions of men. The leaders had arranged things in such a way that through the soul of woman, the willful nature, the vigorous strength of man was ennobled and refined. Of course one must represent all this to oneself as childish beginnings. The words of our language all too easily call up ideas which are taken from the life of the present.

By way of the awakened soul life of the women the leaders first developed the soul life of the men. In the colony we have described, the influence of the women was therefore very great. One had to go to them for advice when one wanted to interpret the signs of nature. The whole manner of their soul life however was still dominated by the “hidden” human soul forces. One does not describe the matter quite exactly, but fairly closely, if one speaks of a somnambulistic contemplating among these women. In certain higher dreams the secrets of nature were divulged to them and they received the impulses for their actions. Everything was animated for them and showed itself to them in soul powers and apparitions. They abandoned themselves to the mysterious weaving of their soul forces. That which impelled them to their actions were “inner voices,” or what plants, animals, stones, wind and clouds, the whispering of the trees, and so on, told them.

From this state of soul originated that which one can call human religion. The spiritual in nature and in human life gradually came to be venerated and worshiped. Some women attained a special preeminence because out of special mysterious depths they could interpret what the world contained.

Thus it could come to pass among such women that that which lived within them could transpose itself into a kind of natural language. For the beginning of language lies in something which is similar to song. The energy of thought was transformed into audible sound. The inner rhythm of nature sounded from the lips of “wise” women. One gathered around such women and in their songlike sentences felt the utterances of higher powers. Human worship of the gods began with such things.

For that period there can be no question of “sense” in that which was spoken. Sound, tone, and rhythm were perceived. One did not imagine anything along with these, but absorbed in the soul the power of what was heard. The whole process was under the direction of the higher leaders. They had inspired the “wise” priestesses with tones and rhythms in a manner which cannot now be further discussed. Thus they could have an ennobling effect on the souls of men. One can say that in this way the true life of the soul first awakened.

In this realm, beautiful scenes are shown by the Akasha Chronicle. One of these will be described. We are in a forest, near a mighty tree. The sun has just risen in the east. The palmlike tree, from around which the other trees have been removed, casts mighty shadows. The priestess, her face turned to the east, ecstatic, sits on a seat made of rare natural objects and plants. Slowly in rhythmical sequence, a few strange, constantly repeated sounds stream from her lips. A number of men and women are sitting in circles around her, their faces lost in dreams, absorbing inner life from what they hear.

Other scenes too can be seen. At a similarly arranged place a priestess “sings” in a similar manner, but her tones have in them something mightier, more powerful. Those around her move in rhythmic dances. For this was the other way in which “soul” entered into mankind. The mysterious rhythms which one had heard from Nature were imitated by the movements of the limbs. One thereby felt at one with nature and with the powers acting in her.

The place on earth in which this stock of a coming race of men was developed was especially suited for this purpose. It was one where the then still turbulent earth had become fairly calm. For Lemuria was turbulent. After all, the earth at that time did not yet have its later density. The thin ground was everywhere undermined by volcanic forces which broke forth in smaller or larger streams. Mighty volcanos existed almost everywhere and developed a continuous destructive activity. Men were accustomed to reckoning with this fiery activity in everything they did. They also used this fire in their labors and contrivances. Their occupations were often such that the fire of nature served as a basis for them in the same way as artificial fire does in human labor today.

It was through the activity of this volcanic fire that the destruction of the Lemurian land came about. While the part of Lemuria from which the parent race of the Atlanteans was to develop had a hot climate, it was by and large free of volcanic activity.

Human nature could unfold more calmly and peacefully here than in the other regions of the earth. The more nomadic life of former times was abandoned, and fixed settlements became more and more numerous.

One must represent to oneself that at that time the human body still had very malleable and pliant qualities. This body still changed form whenever the inner life changed. Not long before, men had still been quite diverse as regards their external form. At that time the external influence of region and climate were still decisive in respect to their form. Only in the colony described did the body of man increasingly become an expression of his inner soul life. Moreover, this colony had an advanced externally more nobly formed race of men. One must say that through the things which they had done, the leaders had really first created what is the true human form. This occurred quite slowly and gradually. It happened in such a way that the soul life of man was first developed and that the still soft and malleable body adapted itself to this. It is a law in the development of mankind that, as progress continues, man has less and less of a molding influence on his physical body. This physical human body in fact received a fairly unchanging form only with the development of the faculty of reason and with the hardening of the rock, mineral, and metal formations of earth connected with this development. For in the Lemurian and even in the Atlantean period, stones and metals were much softer than later.

This is not contradicted by the fact that there exist descendants of the last Lemurians and Atlanteans who today exhibit forms as fixed as the human races which were formed later. These remnants had to adapt themselves to the changed environmental conditions of earth and thus became more rigid. Just this is the reason for their decline. They did not transform themselves from within; instead, their less developed interior was forced into rigidity from the outside and thus compelled to stagnation. This stagnation is really a regression, for the inner life, too, has degenerated because it could not fulfill itself within the rigid external bodily structure.

Animal life was subject to even greater changeability. We shall speak further about the animal species existing at the time of the development of man and about their origin, as well as about the development of new animal forms after man already existed. Here we shall say only that the existing animal species continually transformed themselves and that new ones were developing. This transformation was of course a gradual one. The reasons for the transformation lay in part in a change of habitat and of the manner of life. The animals had a capacity of extraordinarily rapid adaptation to new conditions. The malleable body changed its organs comparatively rapidly, so that after a more or less brief period the descendants of a particular animal species resembled their ancestors only slightly. The same was the case in even greater measure for the plants. The greatest influence on the transformation of men and animals was exercised by man himself. This was true whether he instinctively brought organisms into such an environment that they assumed certain forms, or whether he achieved this by experiments in breeding. The transforming influence of man on nature was immeasurably great at that time, compared with the conditions of today. This was especially the case in the colony we have described. For there the leaders directed this transformation in a way of which men were not conscious. This was the case to such a degree that when men left the colony in order to found the different Atlantean races, they could take with them a highly developed knowledge of the breeding of animals and plants. The labor of cultivation in Atlantis was then essentially a consequence of the knowledge thus brought along. But here again it must be emphasized that this knowledge had an instinctive character. In this state essentially it remained among the first Atlantean races.

The preeminence of the feminine soul, which has been described, was especially strong in the last Lemurian period and continued into the Atlantean times, during which the fourth subrace was preparing itself. But one must not imagine that this was the case among all of mankind. It was true, however, for that part of the population of earth from which the truly advanced races later emerged. This influence exercised the strongest effect upon all that which in man is “unconscious.” The development of certain constant gestures, the refinements of sensory perception, the feeling for beauty, a good part of the general life of sensations and feelings which is common to all men—all this originally emanated from the spiritual influence of woman. It is not an over-statement if one interprets the reports in such a way as to affirm, “The civilized nations have a bodily form and expression, as well as certain bases of physical-soul life, which were imprinted upon them by woman.”

In the next chapter we shall go back to earlier periods of the development of mankind, during which the population of earth still belonged to only one sex. The development of the two sexes will then be described.