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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Cosmic Memory
GA 11

viii. The Hyperborean and the Polarean Epoch

The following passages from the Akasha Chronicle go back to the periods which precede what was described in the last chapters. In view of the materialistic ideas of our time, the risk we undertake with these communications is perhaps even greater than that connected with what has been described in the preceding passages. Today such things are readily met with the accusation of fantasy and baseless speculation. When one knows how far from even taking these things seriously someone can be who has been trained scientifically in the contemporary sense, then only the consciousness that one is reporting faithfully in accordance with spiritual experience can lead one to write about them. Nothing is said here which has not been carefully examined with the means provided by the science of the spirit. The scientist need only be as tolerant toward the science of the spirit as the latter is toward the scientific way of thinking. [Compare my Welt-und Lebensanschauungen im neunzehnten Jahrhundert (Conceptions of the World and of Life in the Nineteenth Century), where I think I have shown that I am able to appreciate the materialistic-scientific view.1In 1914 a new edition of this work appeared, which was completed by a Vorgeschichte über abendländische Philosophie und bis zur Gegenwart fortgesetst (Previous History of Occidental Philosophy and its Continuation to the Present), the work appearing under the title, Die Rätsel der Philosophie inihrer Geschichte als Umriss dargestellt (The Riddles of Philosophy, etc.), two volumes, Stuttgart, 1955. ] For those however who incline toward these matters of the science of the spirit, I would like to make a special remark concerning the passages reproduced here. Especially important matters will be discussed in what follows. And all this belongs to periods which are long past. The deciphering of the Akasha Chronicle is not exactly easy in this area. The author of this present book in no way claims that he should be believed blindly. He merely wishes to report what his best efforts have enabled him to discover. He will welcome any correction based on competent knowledge. He feels obliged to communicate these events concerning the development of mankind because the signs of the times urge it. Moreover, a long period of time had to be described in outline here in order to afford a general view. Further details on much that is only indicated now will follow later.

Only with difficulty can the writings in the Akasha Chronicle be translated into our colloquial language. They are more easily communicated in the symbolical sign language used in mystery schools, but as yet the communication of this language is not permitted. Therefore the reader is requested to bear with much that is dark and difficult to comprehend, and to struggle toward an understanding, just as the writer has struggled toward a generally understandable manner of presentation. Many a difficulty in reading will be rewarded when one looks upon the deep mysteries, the important human enigmas which are indicated. A true self-knowledge of man is, after all, the result of these “Akasha Records,” which for the scientist of the spirit are realities as certain as are mountain ranges and rivers for the eye of sense. An error of perception is of course possible, here and there.

It should be noted that in the present section only the development of man is discussed. Parallel to it, of course, runs that of the other natural realms, of the mineral, the botanical, the animal. The next sections will deal with these. Then much will be spoken of which will make the discussion concerning man appear in a clearer light. On the other hand, one cannot speak of the development of the terrestrial realms in the sense of the science of the spirit, until the gradual progress of man has been described.

If one traces the development of the earth even further back than was done in the preceding essays, one comes upon increasingly refined material conditions of our planet. The substances which later became solid were previously in a fluid, still earlier, in a vaporous and steam-like, and in an even more remote past, in the most refined (etheric) condition. The decreasing temperature caused the hardening of substances. Here we shall go back to the most refined etheric condition of the substances of our earthly dwelling place. Man first entered upon the earth in this epoch of its development. Before that, he belonged to other worlds, which will be discussed later. Only the one immediately preceding will be indicated here. This was a so-called astral or soul world. The beings of this world did not lead an external, (physical) bodily existence. Neither did man. He had already developed the image consciousness mentioned in the previous essay. He had feelings and desires. But all this was enclosed in a soul body. Only to the clairvoyant eye would such a man have been perceptible.

As a matter of fact, all the more highly developed human beings of that time possessed clairvoyance, although it was quite dull and dreamlike. It was not a self-conscious clairvoyance.

These astral beings are in a certain sense the ancestors of man. What is today called “man” carries the self-conscious spirit within him. This spirit united with the being which had developed from the astral ancestor in about the middle of the Lemurian period. This union has already been indicated in the previous essays. In the description of the course of development of the ancestors of man up to that period which is to follow here, the matter will be discussed again in greater detail.

The soul or astral ancestors of man were transported to the refined or etheric earth. So to speak, they sucked the refined substance into themselves like a sponge, to speak coarsely. By thus becoming penetrated with substance, they developed etheric bodies. These had an elongated elliptical form, in which the limbs and other organs which were to be formed later were already indicated by delicate shadings of the substance. All processes in this mass were purely physical-chemical, but they were regulated and dominated by the soul.

When such a mass of substance had attained a certain size it split into two masses, each of which was similar to the form from which it had sprung, and in it the same processes took place as in the original mass of substance.

Each new form was as much endowed with soul as the mother being. This was due to the fact that it was not a certain number of human souls which entered upon the earthly scene, but rather a kind of soul tree which could produce innumerable single souls from its common root. As a plant sprouts ever anew from innumerable seeds, so the soul life appeared in the countless shoots produced by the continual divisions. It is true that from the beginning there was a narrowly circumscribed number of kinds of souls, of which fact we shall speak later. But within these kinds the development proceeded in the manner which we have described. Each kind of soul put forth innumerable off-shoots.

With their entry into terrestrial materiality, an important change had taken place within the souls themselves. As long as the souls were not connected with anything material, no external material process could act on them. Any action upon them was purely of the nature of soul, was a clairvoyant one. They thus shared in the life of everything pertaining to soul in their environment—All that existed at that time was experienced in this way. The actions of stones, plants, and animals, which then existed only as astral (soul-like) forms, were felt as inner soul experiences.

With the entering upon the earth, something totally new was added to this. External material processes exercised an effect on the soul, which now appeared in material garb. At first it was only the processes of motion in this material outside world which produced movements within the etheric body. As today we perceive the vibration of the air as sound, these etheric beings perceived the vibrations of the etheric matter which surrounded them. Such a being was basically a single organ of hearing. This sense developed first. But one can see from this that separate organs of hearing developed only later.

With the increasing densification of terrestrial matter, the spiritual being gradually lost the ability to mold this matter. Only the bodies which had already been formed could produce their like out of themselves. A new manner of reproduction arose. The daughter being appeared as a considerably smaller form than the mother being and only gradually grew to the size of the latter. While before there had been no organs of reproduction, these now made their appearance.

At this time, however, it is no longer merely a physical-chemical process which takes place in these forms. Such a chemical-physical process could not effect reproduction now. Because of its densification, external matter is no longer such that the soul can give life to it without mediation. Therefore, a certain portion within the form is isolated. This portion is withdrawn from the immediate influences of external matter. Only the body outside of this isolated portion remains exposed to these influences. It is in the same condition in which the whole body was before. In the separated portion, the soul element continues to act. Here the soul becomes the carrier of the life principle, called Prana in theosophical literature. Thus the bodily ancestor of man now appears endowed with two organs. One is the physical body, the physical envelope. It is subject to the chemical and physical laws of the surrounding world. The other is the sum of the organs which are subject to the special life principle.

A portion of soul activity is freed in this manner. This activity no longer has any power over the physical part of the body. This part of the soul activity now turns inward and forms a portion of the body into special organs. With this an inner life of the body begins. The body no longer merely participates in the vibrations of the outside world, but begins to perceive them within itself as special experiences. Here is the starting point of perception. This perception at first appears as a kind of sense of touch. The organism feels the movements of the outside world; the pressure which substances exercise, and so forth. The beginnings of a perception of heat and cold also appear.

With this an important stage in the development of mankind is reached. The immediate influence of the soul has been withdrawn from the physical body. The latter is totally given over to the physical and chemical world of matter. It disintegrates at the moment the soul can no longer dominate it with its activity. Thereupon occurs that which one calls “death.” In connection with the preceding conditions, there could be no question of death. When a division took place, the mother form survived wholly in the daughter forms. For in these the entire transformed soul energy acted as it did before in the mother form. In the division there was nothing left which did not contain soul. Now this becomes different. As soon as the soul no longer has any power over the physical body, the latter becomes subject to the chemical and physical laws of the outside world, that is, it dies away. As activity of the soul there remains only that which acts in reproduction and in the developed inner life. This means that descendants are produced by the force of reproduction, and at the same time these descendants are endowed with a surplus of organ-forming energy. In this surplus the soul being is constantly reviving. As previously at the time of division, the whole body was filled with soul activity, so the organs of reproduction and perception are now filled with it. We are thus dealing with a reincarnation of the soul life in the newly-developing daughter organism.

In theosophical literature these two stages of the development of man are described as the first two root races of our earth. The first is called the Polarean, the second, the Hyperborean race.

One must imagine the perceptual world of these ancestors of man to have been a quite general and indefinite one. Only two of the types of perception of today had already become separated: the sense of hearing and the sense of touch. Because of the changes that had taken place in the body as well as in the physical environment, the entire human form was no longer capable of being, in a manner of speaking, an “ear.” A special part of the body remained capable of reverberating to delicate vibrations. It furnished the material from which our organ of hearing gradually developed. However, approximately the whole remainder of the body continued to be the organ of touch.

It can be seen that up to this point the entire process of the development of man is connected with a change in the temperature conditions of earth. It was the heat in man's environment which had brought him to the level we have described. But now the external temperature had reached a point where further progress of the human form would no longer have been possible. Within the organism a counter-action against the further cooling of the earth now begins. Man starts to produce his own source of heat. Up to this point he had shared the temperature of his environment. Now organs develop in him which make him able to create the degree of heat necessary for his life. Previously, the circulating substances which passed through him had been dependent on the environment in this respect. Now he himself could develop heat for these substances. The bodily fluids now became warm blood. With this he attained a much higher degree of independence as a physical being than he had possessed before. The whole inner life became more active. Perception still depended entirely on the influences of the outside world. Filled with its own heat, the body acquired an independent physical inner life. Now the soul had a basis inside the body upon which it could develop a life which was no longer merely a participation in the life of the outside world.

Through this process, the life of the soul was drawn into the realm of the earthly-material. Previously, desires, wishes, passions, joy and grief of the soul could only be produced by something that was itself soul-like. That which proceeded from another soul-being awakened sympathy or aversion in the soul, excited the passions, and so forth. No external physical object could have had such an effect. Now only did it become possible for such external objects to have a significance for the soul. For the latter experienced the enhancement of the inner life, which had awakened when the body produced its own heat, as something pleasant, the disturbance of this inner life as something disagreeable. An external object suitable for contributing to physical well-being could be desired, could be wished for. What in theosophical literature is called Kama—the body of wishes—became connected with earthly man. The objects of the senses could now become objects of desire. Through his body of wishes man became tied to earthly existence.

This fact coincides with a great event in the universe, with which it is causally connected. Up to this point there had been no material separation between sun, earth, and moon. In their effect on man these three were one body. Now the separation took place; the more delicate substantiality, which includes everything which had previously made it possible for the soul to act in an immediately vitalizing manner, separated itself as the sun; the coarsest part was extruded as the moon; and the earth, with respect to its substantiality, stood in the middle between the two others. This separation was of course not a sudden one; rather the whole process proceeded gradually while man was advancing from the stage of reproduction by division to the one described last. It was indeed by the universal processes just mentioned that this development of man was brought about. The sun first withdrew its substance from the common heavenly body. Thereby it became impossible for the soul element to vitalize the remaining earthly matter without mediation. Then the moon began to form itself. Thus the earth entered the condition which made possible the capacity for perception characterized above.

In association with this process, a new sense developed. The temperature conditions of earth became such that bodies gradually took on the fixed limits which separated the transparent from the opaque. The sun, which had been extruded from the terrestrial mass, received its task as light giver. In the human body the sense of seeing developed. At first this seeing was not as we know it today. Light and darkness acted upon man as vague sensations. For instance, under certain conditions he experienced light as pleasant, as promoting his physical life, and sought it, strove toward it. At the same time his soul life proper still continued in dreamlike pictures. In this life, colored images which had no immediate relation to external objects arose and vanished. Man still related these colored images to spiritual influences. Light images appeared to him when he was affected by pleasant soul influences, dark images when he was touched by unpleasant soul influences.

Up to now, what was caused by the development of bodily heat has been described as “inner life.” But it can be seen that it was not an inner life in the sense of the later development of mankind. Everything proceeds by stages, including the development of the inner life. As it was meant in the preceding essay, this true inner life begins only with the fertilization by the spirit, when man begins to think about that which acts upon him from the outside.

Everything which has been described here shows how man grew into the condition pictured in the preceding chapter. Essentially one is already moving in the period which was characterized there when one describes the following: The soul learns more and more to apply to external bodily existence that which it had previously experienced within itself and related only to the soul-like. This now happens with the colored images. As before, a pleasing impression of something soul-like had been connected with a luminous image in the soul, now a bright impression of light from the outside became connected with such an image. The soul began to see the objects around it in colors. This was connected with the development of new instruments of sight. At previous stages, for the perception of light and darkness, the body had had an eye which no longer exists today. (The legend of the Cyclops with one eye is a recollection of these conditions.) The two eyes developed when the soul began to connect the light impressions from the outside more intimately with its own life. With this, the capacity for the perception of the soul-like in the environment disappeared. More and more the soul became the mirror of the external world. The outside world is repeated within the soul as image.

Hand in hand with this went the division into sexes. On one side, the human body became receptive only to fertilization by another human being; on the other side there developed the physical “soul organs” (the nervous system) through which the sense impressions of the outside world were mirrored in the soul.

With this, the entry of the thinking spirit into the human body had been prepared.