The fourth principal stage of human development is lived on earth. This is that condition of consciousness in which man finds himself at present. But before he attained it, he, and with him the whole earth, first had to repeat successively the Saturn, Sun, and Moon stages in three smaller cycles (the so-called “rounds” of theosophical literature). Man now lives in the fourth earth cycle. He has already advanced a little past the middle of this cycle. At this stage of consciousness man no longer perceives in a dreamlike manner the images which arise in his soul through the influence of his environment only, but objects appear to him “outside in space.” On the Moon and also during the stages of repetition on earth, there arose for example, a colored image in his soul when a particular object came near him. All of consciousness consisted of such images, tones, and so forth, which flowed and ebbed in the soul. Only with the appearance of the fourth condition of consciousness does color no longer appear merely in the soul, but on an external, spatially circumscribed object; sound is no longer merely an inner reverberating of the soul, but the resounding of an object in space. In mystery science therefore, one also calls this fourth, the earthly condition of consciousness, the “objective consciousness.” It has been formed slowly gradually in the course of development in the way that the physical organs of sense slowly arose and thus made perceptible the most diverse sensory qualities in external objects. Apart from the senses which are already developed, others exist in an as yet germinal state which will become fully developed in the subsequent earth period, and which will show the world of the senses in a diversity still greater than is the case today. The gradual growth of this earth consciousness has been described in the preceding pages, and in the discussions which are to follow this description will be amplified and supplemented in essential points.
The colored world, the sounding world, and so forth, which earlier man had perceived within himself, confronts him outside in space during his life on earth. But on the other hand, a new world appears within him: the world of ideas or thoughts. One cannot speak of ideas and thoughts in relation to the Moon consciousness. The latter consists solely of the images we have described. Around the middle of the development of earth — although this state of affairs was already preparing itself at a somewhat earlier time — there developed in man the capacity to form ideas and thoughts about objects. This capacity constitutes the basis for memory and for self-consciousness. Only conceptualizing man can develop a memory of that which he has perceived; and only thinking man reaches the point where he differentiates himself from his environment as an independent, self-conscious being, where he recognizes himself as an “I.” The first three stages we have described were stages of consciousness; the fourth is not only consciousness, but self-consciousness.
But within the self-consciousness, the present-day life of thoughts, there is already developing a disposition toward still higher states of consciousness. Man will live through these states of consciousness on the next planets into which the earth will change after its present form. It is not absurd to say something about these future conditions of consciousness, and therewith about life on the following planets. For in the first place, the clairvoyant — for certain reasons which are to be given elsewhere — strides ahead of his fellows in his development. Thus those states of consciousness which all of mankind must attain with the advance of planetary development are already developing in him at this time. In the consciousness of the clairvoyant one finds an image of the future stages of mankind. Moreover, the three subsequent conditions of consciousness are now already present in all men in germinal states; and clairvoyant research has means for indicating what will emerge from these germinal states.
When it is said that the clairvoyant is already developing in himself the states of consciousness to which in future all of mankind will advance, this must be understood with one restriction. The clairvoyant, for example, is developing a seeing in the spiritual world today which in future will appear in man in a physical way. But this future physical condition of man will be a faithful likeness of the corresponding contemporary spiritual one in the clairvoyant. The earth itself is going to develop, and therefore quite different forms from those which exist today will appear in its future physical inhabitants; but these physical forms are being prepared in the spiritual and mental ones of today. For example, what the clairvoyant today sees in the form of a cloud of light and color around the human physical body as a so-called “aura,” will later change into a physical form; and other organs of sense than those of today will give the man of the future the capacity to perceive other forms. However, already today the clairvoyant sees the spiritual models of the later material entities with his spiritual senses (thus for example, the aura). A view into the future is possible for him, although it is very difficult to give an idea of the character of this view through the language of today and for present-day human conceptions.
The conceptions of the present state of consciousness are shadowy and pale in comparison with the colorful and sounding objects of the external world. Man therefore speaks of conceptions as of something which is “not real.” A “mere thought” — is contrasted with an object or a being which is “real” because it can be perceived through the senses. But conceptions and thoughts bear within themselves the potentiality of again becoming real and image-like. If man speaks of the conception “red” today without having a red object before him, then this conception is, as it were, only a shadow image of real “redness.” Later, man will reach the point where he can not only let the shadowy conception of the “red” arise in his soul, but where, when he thinks “red,” “red” will actually be before him. He will be able to create images, not merely conceptions. Thereby something will be achieved by him similar to that which already existed for the Moon consciousness. But the images will not ebb and flow in him like dreams; instead he will evoke them in full self-consciousness, as he does today's conceptions. The thought of a color will be the color itself; the conception of a sound will be the sound itself, and so forth. In the future, a world of images will flow and ebb in the soul of man through his own power, whereas during the Moon existence such a world of images filled him without his acting. In the meantime the spatial character of the objective external world will not disappear. The color which arises together with the conception of color will not be merely an image in the soul but will appear in outside space. The consequence of this will be that man will be able to perceive beings and objects of a higher kind than those of his present environment. These are objects and beings which are of a more delicate spiritual and soul nature, hence they do not clothe themselves in the objective colors which are perceptible to the present physical sense organs; however, these are objects and beings which will reveal themselves through the more delicate spiritual and mental colors and sounds which the man of the future will be able to create from his soul.
Man is approaching a condition in which he will have a self-conscious image consciousness 3The combination, “self-conscious image consciousness,” may appear odd, but it probably best expresses the state of affairs. If one wished, one could also say, “image self-consciousness.” appropriate for such perceptions. On the one hand, the coming development of earth will raise the present life of conceptions and thoughts to an ever higher, more delicate, and more perfect condition; on the other hand, the self-conscious image consciousness will gradually develop itself during this time. The latter, however, will attain full life in man only on the next planet into which the earth will transform itself, and which is called “Jupiter” in mystery science. Then man will be able to enter into intercourse with beings which are completely hidden from his present sensory perception. It will be understood that not only does the life of perception thereby become totally different, but that actions, feelings, and all relations to the environment, are completely transformed. While today man can consciously influence only sensory beings, he will then be able to act consciously on very different forces and powers; he himself will receive what to him will be fully recognizable influences from very different realms than at present. At that stage there can no longer be any question of birth and death in the present sense. For “death” occurs only because the consciousness has to depend on an external world with which it enters into communication through the physical sense organs. When these physical sense organs fail, every relation to the environment ceases. That is to say, the man “has died.” However, when his soul is so far advanced that it does not receive the influences of the outside world through physical instruments, but receives them through the images which the soul creates out of itself, then it will have reached the point where it can regulate its intercourse with the environment independently, that is, its life will not be interrupted against its will. It has become lord over birth and death. All this will come to be with the developed self-conscious image consciousness on “Jupiter.” This state of the soul is also called the “psychic consciousness.”
The next condition of consciousness to which man develops on a further planet, “Venus,” is distinguished from the previous one by the fact that the soul can now create not only images, but also objects and beings. This occurs in the self-conscious object consciousness or supra-psychic consciousness. Through the image consciousness man can perceive something of supersensible beings and objects, and he can influence them through the awakening of his image conceptions. But in order for that to take place which he desires of such a supersensible being, at his instigation, this being must use its own forces. Thus man is the ruler over images, and he can produce effects through these images. But he is not yet lord over the forces themselves. When his self-conscious object consciousness is developed, he will also be ruler over the creative forces of other worlds. He will not only perceive and influence beings, but he himself will create.
This is the course of the development of consciousness: at first it begins dimly; one perceives nothing of other objects and beings, but only the inner experiences (images) of one's own soul; then perception is developed. At last the perceptive consciousness is transformed into a creative one. Before the condition of earth goes over into the life of Jupiter — after the fourth earthly cycle — there are three more smaller cycles to be passed through. These serve for the further perfection of the consciousness of earth in a manner to be described in the following essays, when the development of the smaller cycles and of their subdivisions will be described for all seven planets. When, after a period of rest (Pralaya), earth has changed into Jupiter, and when man has arrived on the latter planet, then the four preceding conditions — Saturn, Sun, Moon, and earth condition — must again be repeated during four smaller cycles; and only during the fifth cycle of Jupiter does man attain the stage which has been described above as the real Jupiter consciousness. In a corresponding manner does the “Venus consciousness” appear during the sixth cycle of Venus.
A fact which will play a certain role in the following essays will be briefly indicated here. This concerns the speed with which the development on the different planets takes place. For this is not the same on all the planets. Life proceeds with the greatest speed on Saturn, the rapidity then decreases on the Sun, becomes still less on the Moon and reaches its slowest phase on the earth. On the latter it becomes slower and slower, to the point at which self-consciousness develops. Then the speed increases again. Therefore, today man has already passed the time of the greatest slowness of his development. Life has begun to accelerate again. On Jupiter the speed of the Moon, on Venus that of the Sun will again be attained. The last planet which can still be counted among the series of earthly transformations, and hence follows Venus, is called “Vulcan” by mystery science. On this planet the provisional goal of the development of mankind is attained. The condition of consciousness into which man enters there is called “piety” or spiritual consciousness. Man will attain it in the seventh cycle of Vulcan after a repetition of the six preceding stages. Not much can be publicly communicated about the life on this planet. In mystery science one speaks of it in such a way that it is said, “No soul which, with its thinking is still tied to a physical body, should reflect about Vulcan and its life.” That is, only the mystery students of the higher order, who may leave their physical body and can acquire supersensible knowledge outside of it, can learn something about Vulcan.
The seven stages of consciousness are thus expressed in the course of the development of mankind in seven planetary developments. At each stage, the consciousness must now pass through seven subordinate conditions. These are realized in the smaller cycles already mentioned. (In theosophical writings these seven cycles are called “rounds.”) These subordinate states are called “conditions of life” by the mystery science of the Occident, in contrast with the super-ordinated “conditions of consciousness.” Or, one says that each condition of consciousness moves through seven “realms.” According to this calculation, one must distinguish seven times seven in the whole development of mankind, that is, forty-nine small cycles or “realms” (according to common theosophical usage, “rounds”). And again, each small cycle has to pass through seven yet smaller ones, which are called “conditions of form” (in theosophical language, “globes”). For the full cycle of humanity this amounts to seven times forty-nine or three hundred and forty-three different “conditions of form.”
The following discussions which deal with this development, will show that a survey of the whole is not as complicated as might at first appear at the mention of the number three hundred and forty-three. It will become apparent how man can only truly understand himself when he knows his own development.