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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Cosmic Memory
GA 11

xi. Some Necessary Points of View

We shall next consider the development of man and of the entities connected with him in the time which preceded the “earthly period.” For when man began to unite his destiny with the planet one calls “earth,” he had already passed through a series of developmental steps in the course of which he had prepared himself for earthly existence, as it were. One must distinguish three such steps, which are designated as three planetary developmental stages. The names used in mystery science for these stages are the Saturn, Sun and Moon periods. It will become apparent that these designations at first have nothing to do with the heavenly bodies of today which bear these names in physical astronomy, although in a broader sense a relationship to them exists, which is known to the advanced mystic.

One will sometimes say that man inhabited other planets before he appeared upon earth. But under these “other planets” one must only understand earlier developmental conditions of the earth itself and of its inhabitants. Before it became “earth,” the earth with all the beings which belong to it passed through the three conditions of the Saturn, Sun, and Moon existence. Saturn Sun, and Moon are, as it were, the three incarnations of the earth in primeval times. What in this connection is called Saturn, Sun, and Moon no more exists today as a physical planet than the previous physical incarnations of a human being continue to exist alongside his present one.

This “planetary development” of man and of the other beings belonging to earth will form the subject of the following discussions “From the Akasha Chronicle.” By this we do not wish to say that the three conditions were not preceded by others. But everything which precedes these three is lost in a darkness which for the present the research of mystery science cannot illuminate. For this research is not based on speculation, on a day dreaming in terms of mere concepts, but on actual spiritual experience. As our physical eye can see outdoors only as far as a certain boundary line and cannot look beyond the horizon, so the “spiritual eye” can look only as far as a certain point in time. Mystery science is based on experience and is content to remain within this experience. Only in a conceptual splitting of hairs will one want to find out what was “at the very beginning” of the world, or “why God really created the world.” For the scientist of the spirit it is rather a matter of realizing that at a certain stage of cognition one no longer poses such questions. Everything man needs for the fulfillment of his destiny on our planet is revealed to him within spiritual experience. The one who patiently works his way into the experiences of scientists of the spirit will see that within spiritual experience man can obtain full satisfaction concerning all those questions which are vital to him. In the following essays for example, one will see how completely the question concerning the “origin of evil” is resolved, as well as much else which man must desire to know.

We by no means intend to imply that man can never receive enlightenment concerning questions about the “origin of the world” and similar matters. He can. But in order to be able to be enlightened, he must first absorb the knowledge revealed within more proximate spiritual experience. He then comes to realize that he must ask these questions in a different manner than heretofore.

The more deeply one works his way into true mystery science, the more modest he becomes. Only then does he realize how one must very gradually make oneself ready and worthy for certain insight. Pride and arrogance finally become names for human qualities which no longer make sense at a certain level of cognition. When one has understood a little, he sees how immeasurably long is the road which lies ahead of him. Through knowledge one gains insight into “how little one knows.” He also acquires a feeling for the immense responsibility he assumes when he speaks of supersensible cognition. But mankind cannot live without the latter. However, he who promulgates such knowledge needs modesty and true self-criticism, an unshakable striving for self-knowledge and the utmost caution.

Such remarks are necessary here, since now the ascent toward even higher knowledge than is to be found in the preceding sections of the “Akasha Chronicle,” is to be undertaken.

To the vistas which in the following essays will be opened toward the past of man, others will be added upon the future. For the future can be revealed to true spiritual cognition, if only to the extent to which this is necessary for man in order that he can fulfill his destiny. The one who will have nothing to do with mystery science and from the judgment-seat of his prejudices, simply consigns everything coming from that quarter to the realm of fantasy and dreams—he will understand this relationship to the future least of all. Yet a simple logical consideration could make clear what is in question here. But such logical considerations are accepted only when they coincide with the preconceptions of men. Prejudices are mighty enemies of logic.

If sulphur, oxygen, and hydrogen are brought together under certain definite conditions, sulphuric acid must be produced, according to an inevitable law. The student of chemistry can predict what must happen when these three elements come into contact with one another under given conditions. Thus, such a student of chemistry is a prophet in the limited field of the material world. His prophecy could only prove false if the laws of nature were suddenly to change. Now the scientist of the spirit investigates spiritual laws in which the physicist or the chemist investigates material laws. He does this in the manner and with the exactness which are requisite in the spiritual field. However, the development of mankind depends on these great spiritual laws. Just as little as oxygen, hydrogen, and sulphur will combine at some future time in a manner contrary to laws of nature, so little will anything occur in the spiritual life which is contrary to spiritual laws. The one who knows these spiritual laws can look into the orderliness of the future.

The use of precisely this comparison for the prophetic prediction of the coming destinies of mankind is intentional here, because true mystery science really understands this prediction in just this sense. For the one who forms a clear idea of this conviction of occultism, the objection that any human freedom is made impossible because events can be predicted in a certain sense, becomes void. That can be predicted which is in accordance with a law. But the will is not determined by a law. Just as it is certain that in each case oxygen, hydrogen, and sulphur are combined into sulphuric acid only according to a definite law, just so is it equally certain that the establishing of the conditions under which the law will act, can depend on the human will. Thus it will be with the great world events and human destinies of the future. As a scientist of the spirit, one foresees them, although they are to be brought about only by human choice. He foresees what is accomplished by the freedom of man. The following essays will show that this is possible.

However, one must be clear about one essential difference between the prediction of events through physical science and that through spiritual cognition. Physical science is based on the insights of the understanding, and therefore its prophecy is only based on the intellect, which has to rely on judgments, deductions, combinations, and so forth. Prophecy through spiritual cognition, on the contrary, proceeds from an actual higher seeing or perceiving. The scientist of the spirit must strictly avoid even representing anything to himself which is based on mere reflecting, combining, speculating, and so forth. Here he must practice the most far-reaching renunciation and be quite clear that all speculating, intellectual philosophizing, and so forth is a hindrance to true seeing. These activities still belong entirely to the lower nature of man, and truly higher cognition begins only when this nature raises itself to the higher nature in man. Here nothing is really said against these activities which are not only wholly justified in their field, but are there the only justified ones. In itself, a thing is neither higher nor lower; it is higher or lower only in relation to something else. What is high in one respect can be very low in another.

However, what must be understood through seeing, cannot be understood through mere reflection or through even the most magnificent combinations of the intellect. A person may be ever so “ingenious” in the usual sense of the word, but this “ingenuity” will avail him absolutely nothing with respect to the cognition of supersensible truths. He must even renounce it, and abandon himself solely to the higher seeing. Then he will perceive things without his “ingenious” reflecting, just as he perceives the flowers in the fields without further reflection. It does not help one to reflect about the appearance of a meadow; all intellect is powerless there. The same is true of the seeing into higher worlds.

What can be said prophetically in this way about the future of man is the basis for all ideals which have a real, practical significance. If they are to have value, ideals must be rooted as deeply in the spiritual world as are natural laws in the natural world. Laws of development must be such true ideals. Otherwise they spring from a gushing enthusiasm and a fantasy which are valueless, and can never be fulfilled. In the broadest sense, all great ideals of world history have proceeded from clear cognition. For, in the final analysis, all these great ideals originate with the great scientists of the spirit or initiates, and those lesser ones who collaborate in the development of humanity direct themselves either consciously or—most often—unconsciously in accordance with the instructions of the spiritual scientists. Everything unconscious must finally have its origin in something conscious. The bricklayer who works on a house “unconsciously,” directs himself according to matters of which others are conscious who have determined the place where the house is to be built, the style in which it is to be erected, and so forth. But this determining of place and style is based on something of which the determiners remain unconscious, but of which others are or were conscious. An artist, for example, knows why a particular style requires a straight line here, a curved line there, and so forth. The one who uses this style for his house perhaps does not become conscious of this “why.”

This is also the case with the great events in the development of the world and of mankind. Behind those who work in a certain field stand higher, more conscious workers, and thus the scale of consciousness goes up and down.

Behind the general mass of men stand the inventors, artists, scientists, and so forth. Behind them stand the initiates of mystery science, and behind them stand superhuman beings. The development of the world and of mankind becomes comprehensible only if one realizes that ordinary human consciousness is but one form of consciousness, and that there are higher and lower forms. But here too one must not misapply the expressions “higher” and “lower.” They have a significance only in relation to the point where one happens to be standing. It is no different with this than with “right and left.” When one stands at a certain place, some objects are “right” or “left” of him. If one moves a little to the “right,” objects which before were on the right, are now on the left. The same is true of the levels of consciousness which lie “higher” or “lower” than ordinary human consciousness. When man himself develops more highly, his relations to the other levels of consciousness change. But these changes are connected with his development. It is therefore important to indicate such other levels of consciousness here by means of examples.

The beehive or that magnificent commonwealth embodied in an ant hill provide bases of such an indication. The collaboration of the various kinds of insects (females, males, workers) proceeds in a completely systematic fashion. The distribution of tasks among the several categories can only be described as an expression of true wisdom. What happens here is just as much the result of a consciousness as the institutions of man in the physical world (technology, art, state, and so forth) are an effect of his consciousness. However, the consciousness at the base of the beehive or the ant society is not to be found in the same physical world in which the ordinary human consciousness exists. In order to describe the situation, one can express oneself somewhat as follows. One finds man in the physical world. His physical organs, his whole structure are such that at first one looks for his consciousness also in this physical world. It is otherwise with the beehive or the ant hill. Here it would be quite wrong to confine oneself to the physical world with respect to the consciousness in question, as was done in the case of man. No, here one must say that to find the ordering principle of the beehive or the ant hill, one cannot confine oneself to the world where the bees or ants live in their physical bodies. In this case, the “conscious mind” must be sought directly in another world. The same conscious mind which in man lives in the physical world, in the case of these animal colonies must be sought in a supersensible world. If with his consciousness man could raise himself into this supersensible world, he would be able to greet the “ant or bee spirit” there in full consciousness as his sister being. The seer can actually do this. Thus, in the examples given above, we are confronted by beings which are conscious in other worlds and which reach into the physical world only through their physical organs—the individual bees and ants. It is quite possible that a consciousness like that of the beehive or of the ant hill existed in the physical world in earlier periods of its development, as that of man does now, but then raised itself and left behind in the physical world only its acting organs, that is, the individual ants and bees. Such a course of development will actually take place in the future with respect to man. In a certain manner it has already taken place among the seers in the present. That the consciousness of contemporary man functions in the physical world is due to the fact that its physical particles—the molecules of brain and nerves—exist in a quite definite relation with one another. What has been discussed in greater detail in another connection in my book. Wie erlangt man Erkentnisse der hoheren Welten? (How Does One Attain Knowledge of Higher Worlds?) will also be indicated briefly here. In the course of the higher development of man the ordinary connection of the brain molecules is dissolved. They are then connected more “loosely,” so that the brain of a seer can really be compared with an ant hill in a certain respect, although the segmentation is not demonstrable anatomically. In different activities of the world these processes occur in quite different ways. At a time long past, the individual molecules of the ant hill—that is, the ants themselves—were firmly connected, just as are the molecules of the human brain today. At that time, the consciousness corresponding to them was in the physical world, as that of man is today. When human consciousness will travel into “higher” worlds in the future, the connection between the material parts in the physical world will be as loose as is that between the individual ants today. What in time will occur physically in all men, already takes place today in the brain of the clairvoyant, but no instrument of the world of the senses is sufficiently delicate to show the loosening which comes about through this anticipatory development. Just as among the bees three categories, queens, drones, workers, are formed, so three categories of molecules are formed in the “seer brain,” molecules which are actually individual, living beings, brought into conscious collaboration by the consciousness of the seer, which is in a higher world.

Another level of consciousness is represented by what one usually calls the folk- or racial spirit, without representing anything very definite to oneself by this. For the scientist of the spirit, a consciousness also exists at the base of the common and wise influences which appear in the communal life of the members of a people or of a race. Through occult research, one finds this consciousness to be in another world, just as was the case with the consciousness of a beehive or of an ant hill. However, there are no organs for this “folk” or “racial consciousness” in the physical world; rather these organs are to be found only in the so-called astral world. As the consciousness of the beehive works through the physical bees, so the folk-consciousness works by means of the astral bodies of the human beings belonging to a people. In these “folk and racial spirits” one is therefore confronted with kinds of entities quite different from those in man or in the beehive. Many more examples would have to be given in order to show clearly how subordinate and superior entities exist in relation to man. But it is hoped that what has been given will be sufficient to introduce the avenues of human development described in the following chapters. For the development of man himself can only be understood when one considers that he develops together with beings whose consciousness exists in other worlds than his own. What happens in his world is also dependent on these beings who are connected with other levels of consciousness, and therefore can be understood only in relation to this fact.