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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Cosmic Memory
GA 11

vii. The Last Periods before the Division into Sexes

We shall now describe the state of man before his division into male and female. At that time the body consisted of a soft malleable mass. The will had a much greater power over this mass than later. When man separated from his parent entity he appeared as a truly articulated organism, but as an incomplete one. The further development of the organs took place outside the parent entity. Much of what later matured inside the mother organism was at that time brought to completion outside of it by a force which was akin to our will power. In order to bring about such an external maturation the care of the parent being was necessary. Man brought certain organs into the world which he later cast off. Others, which were quite incomplete at his first appearance, developed more fully. The whole process had something which can be compared with the emergence from an egg-form and the casting off of an eggshell, but here one must not think of a firm eggshell.

The body of man was warm-blooded. This must be stated explicitly, for in even earlier times it was different, as will be shown later. The maturation which took place outside the mother organism occurred under the influence of an increased warmth which also was supplied from the outside. But one must by no means think that the egg-man—as he will be called for the sake of brevity—was brooded. The conditions of heat and fire on the earth of that time were different from those of later times. By means of his powers man could confine fire, or respectively, heat, to a certain space. He could, so to speak, contract, (concentrate) heat. He was thus in a position to supply the young organism with the warmth which it needed for its maturation.

The most highly developed organs of man at that time were the organs of motion. The sense organs of today were as yet quite undeveloped. The most advanced among them were the organs of hearing and of perception of cold and hot, the sense of touch; the perception of light lagged far behind. Man came into the world with the senses of hearing and touch; the perception of light developed somewhat later.

Everything which is said here applies to the last periods before the division into sexes. This division took place slowly and gradually. Long before its actual occurrence, human beings were already developing in such a way that one individual would be born with more male, another with more female characteristics. Each human being however also possessed the opposite sexual characteristics, so that self-impregnation was possible. But the latter could not always take place, because it depended on the influences of external conditions in certain seasons. With respect to many things and to a great extent, man was generally dependent on such outer conditions. Therefore he had to regulate all his institutions in accordance with such external conditions, for example, in accordance with the course of the sun and the moon. But his regulation did not take place consciously in the modern sense, but was accomplished in a manner which one must call instinctive. With this we already indicate the soul life of man of that time.

This soul life cannot be described as a true inner life. Physical and soul activities and qualities were not yet strictly separated. The outer life of nature was still experienced by the soul. Each single disturbance in the environment acted powerfully on the sense of hearing especially. Every disturbance of the air, every movement was “heard.” In their movements wind and water spoke an “eloquent language” to man. In this manner a perception of the mysterious activity of nature penetrated into him. This activity reverberated in his soul. His own activity was an echo of these impressions. He transformed the perceptions of sound into his own activity. He lived among such tonal movements and expressed them by his will. In this way he was impelled to all his daily labors.

He was influenced in a somewhat lesser degree by the influences which act upon the touch. But they also played an important role. He “felt” the environment in his body and acted accordingly. From such influences upon the touch he could tell when and how he had to work. He knew from them where he should rest. In them he recognized and avoided dangers which threatened his life. In accordance with these influences he regulated his food intake.

The remainder of the soul life took its course in a manner quite different from that of later periods. In the soul lived images of external objects, not conceptions of them. For instance, when man entered a warmer space from a colder one, a certain colored image arose in his soul. But this colored image had nothing to do with any external object. It originated in an inner force which was akin to the will. Such images continuously filled the soul. One can compare this only with the flowing dream impressions of man. At that time the images were not completely irregular, but proceeded according to law. Therefore, in relation to this stage of mankind, one should speak of an image consciousness rather than of a dream consciousness. For the most part, colored images filled this consciousness. But these were not the only kind. Thus man wandered through the world, and through his hearing and touch participated in the events of this world: but in his soul life this world was mirrored in images which were very unlike what existed in the external world. Joy and sorrow were associated with the images of the soul to a much lesser degree than is the case today with the ideas of men which reflect their perceptions of the external world. It is true that one image awakened happiness, another displeasure, one hate, another love; but these feelings had a much paler character.

On the other hand, strong feelings were aroused by something else. At that time man was much more active than later. Everything in his environment as well as the images in his soul, stimulated him to activity, to movement. When his activity could proceed without hindrance, he experienced pleasure, but when this activity was hindered in any way, he felt displeasure and discomfort. It was the absence or presence of hindrances to his will which determined the content of his sensations, his joy and his pain. This joy, or this pain were again released in his soul in a world of living images. Light, clear, beautiful images lived in him when he could be completely free in his actions; dark, misshapen images arose in his soul when his movements were hindered.

Until now the average man has been described. Among those who had developed into a kind of superhuman beings, (cf. page 96) soul life was different. Their soul life did not have this instinctive character. Through their senses of hearing and touch they perceived deeper mysteries of nature, which they could interpret consciously. In the rushing of the wind, in the rustling of the trees, the laws, the wisdom of nature were unveiled to them. The images in their souls did not merely represent reflections of the external world, but were likenesses of the spiritual powers of the world. They did not perceive sensory objects, but spiritual entities. For example, the average man experienced fear, and an ugly, dark image arose in his soul. By means of such images the superhuman being received information and revelation about the spiritual entities of the world. The processes of nature did not appear to him as dependent on lifeless natural laws, as they do to the scientist of today, but rather as the actions of spiritual beings. External reality did not yet exist, for there were no external senses. But spiritual reality was accessible to the higher beings. The spirit shone into them as the sun shines into the physical eye of man today. In these beings, cognition was what one may call intuitive knowledge in the fullest sense of the word. For them there was no combining and speculating, but an immediate perception of the activity of spiritual beings. Therefore, these superhuman individuals could receive communications from the spiritual world directly into their will. They consciously directed the other men. They received their mission from the world of spirits and acted accordingly.

When the time came in which the sexes separated, these beings considered it their task to act upon the new life in accordance with their mission. The regulation of sexual life emanated from them. Everything which relates to the reproduction of mankind originated with them. In this they acted quite consciously, but the other men could only feel this influence as an instinct implanted in them. Sexual love was implanted in man by immediate transference of thought. At first all its manifestations were of the noblest character. Everything in this area which has taken on an ugly character comes from later times, when men became more independent and when they corrupted an originally pure impulse. In these older times there was no satisfaction of the sexual impulse for its own sake. Then, everything was a sacrificial service for the continuation of human existence. Reproduction was regarded as a sacred matter, as a service which man owes to the world. Sacrificial priests were the directors and regulators in this field.

Of a different kind were the influences of the half superhuman beings (cf. page 96/97). The latter were not developed to the point of being able to receive the revelations of the spiritual world in an entirely pure form. Along with these impressions of the spiritual world, the effects of the sensible earth also arose among the images of their souls. The truly superhuman beings received no impressions of joy and pain through the external world. They were wholly given over to the revelations of the spiritual powers. Wisdom flowed to them as light does to sensory beings; their will was directed toward nothing but acting in accordance with this wisdom. In this acting lay their highest joy. Wisdom, will, and activity constituted their nature. This was different among the half superhuman entities. They felt the impulse to receive impressions from the outside, and with the satisfaction of this impulse they connected joy, with its frustration, displeasure. Through this they differed from the superhuman entities. To these entities, external impressions were nothing but confirmations of spiritual revelations They could look out into the world without receiving anything more than a reflection of what they had already received from the spirit. The half-superhuman beings learned something new, and therefore they could become leaders of men when in human souls mere images changed into likenesses and conceptions of external objects. This happened when a portion of the previous reproductive energy of man turned inward, at the time when entities with brains were developed. With the brain man also received the capacity to transform external sensory impressions into conceptions.

It must therefore be said that by half-superhuman beings man was brought to the point of directing his inner nature toward the sensuous external world. He was not permitted to open the images of his soul directly to pure spiritual influences. The capacity of perpetuating the existence of his kind was implanted in him as an instinctive impulse by superhuman beings. Spiritually, he would at first have had to continue a sort of dream existence if the half-superhuman beings had not intervened. Through their influence the images of his soul were directed toward the sensuous, external world. He became a being which was conscious of itself in the world of the senses. Thereby it came about that man could consciously direct his actions in accordance with his perceptions of the world of the senses. Before this he had acted from a kind of instinct. He had been under the spell of his external environment and of the powers of higher individualities, which acted on him. Now he began to follow the impulses and enticements of his conceptions. Therewith free choice became possible for man. This was the beginning of “good and evil.”

Before we continue in this direction, something will be said concerning the environment of man on earth. In addition to man there existed animals, which, for their kind, were at the same stage of development as he. According to current ideas one would include them among the reptiles. Apart from them, lower forms of animal life existed. Between man and the animals there was an essential difference. Because of his still malleable body, man could live only in those regions of the earth which had not yet passed over into the most solid material form. And in these regions animal organisms which had a similarly plastic body lived with him. But in other regions lived animals which already had dense bodies and also had developed separate sexedness and the senses. Where they had come from, will be explained later. These animals could not develop further because their bodies had taken on this denser materiality too soon. Some species of these became extinct, others have perpetuated their kind to the point of contemporary forms. Man could attain higher forms because he remained in the regions which corresponded to his state at that time. Thereby his body remained so pliant and soft that he could develop the organs which were to be fructified by the spirit. With this development his external body had reached the point where it could pass over into denser materiality and become a protective envelope for the more delicate spiritual organs.

Not all human bodies, however, had reached this point. There were few advanced ones. These were first animated by spirit. Others were not animated. If the spirit had penetrated into them it could have developed only in a defective manner because of the as yet incomplete inner organs. Therefore, at first these human beings were compelled to develop further without spirit. A third kind had reached the point where weak spiritual impulses could act in them. They stood between the two other kinds. Their mental activity remained dull. They had to be led by higher spiritual powers. All possible transitions existed between these three kinds. Further development was now possible only in that a portion of the human beings attained higher forms at the expense of the others. First, the completely mindless ones had to be abandoned. A mingling with them for the purpose of reproduction would have pulled the more highly developed down to their level. Everything which had been given a mind was therefore separated from them. Thereby the latter descended more and more to the level of animalism. Thus, alongside man there developed manlike animals. Man left a portion of his brothers behind on his road in order that he himself might ascend higher. This process had by no means come to an end. Among the men with a dull mental life those who stood somewhat higher could advance only if they were raised to an association with higher ones, and separated themselves from those less endowed with spirit. Only thus could they develop bodies which would be fit to receive the full human spirit. After a certain time the physical development had come to a kind of stopping-point, in that everything which lay above a certain boundary remained human. Meanwhile, the conditions of life on earth had changed in such a way that a further thrusting down would no longer produce animal-like creatures, but such as were no longer capable of living. That which had been thrust down into the animal world has either become extinct or survives in the different higher animals. Therefore, one must consider these animals as beings which had to stop at an earlier stage of human development. They have not retained the form which they had at the time of their separation, however, but have gone from a higher to a lower level. Thus the apes are men of a past epoch who have regressed. As man was once less perfect than he is at present, they were once more perfect than they are now.

That which has remained in the field of the human, has gone through a similar process, but within these human limits. Many savage tribes must be considered to be the degenerated descendants of human forms which were once more highly developed. They did not sink to the level of animalism, but only to that of savagery.

The immortal part of man is the spirit. It has been shown when the spirit entered the body. Before this, the spirit belonged to other regions. It could only associate itself with the body when the latter had attained a certain level of development. Only when one understands completely how this association came about, can one recognize the significance of birth and death, and can understand the nature of the eternal spirit.