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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Atlantis and Lemuria
GA 11

III. Transition of the Atlantean into the Âryan Root-Race

The following communications refer to the transition of the fourth (Atlantean) Root-Race into the fifth (Âryan), to which belongs civilised mankind of the present day. He only will estimate them correctly who is able to grasp the idea of evolution in its fullest meaning. Everything that comes to the notice of man in his surroundings is in a condition of development. And it must also be remembered that the peculiar characteristic of men of our fifth Root-Race, consisting in the use of thought, has but just been developed. Indeed, it is this Root-Race that slowly and gradually brings the power of thought to maturity. The man of the present makes up his mind and carries out his decision on the strength of his own thought. With the Atlanteans this capacity was only in preparation. Not their own thoughts, but those which flowed in upon them from Beings of a higher kind, influenced their will, which was thus guided, in a sense, from without. He who makes himself familiar with this conception of evolution in regard to man, and who learns to admit that he was, in prehistoric times and as an inhabitant of the earth, of an altogether different constitution, will also be able to advance to the conception of those wholly different Beings to whom reference is made in these communications. The development which is under consideration occupied enormous periods of time. Details of this will be shown more circumstantially in the following communications.

What has previously been said about the fourth Root-Race, the Atlantean, refers to the great general mass of mankind. But the latter found themselves under leaders who towered high above them in ability. The wisdom possessed by these leaders, and the powers of which they were masters, could not be obtained through any earthly education, but were imparted to them by entities of a high rank, and not pertaining directly to the earth. It was, therefore, quite natural that the great mass of mankind regarded these, their leaders, as Beings of a higher kind, as “messengers” of the gods. For that which these leaders knew and were able to achieve could not have been accomplished by means of human sense-organs or human understanding. They were worshipped as “Divine Messengers,” and their precepts, commands, and instructions were accepted. By such Beings mankind was instructed in sciences, arts, and the construction of tools. And such “Divine Messengers” either directed the communities themselves, or instructed such men as were sufficiently developed in the arts of governing. These leaders were said “to hold intercourse with gods,” and to be initiated by these themselves in the laws according to which mankind was to develop. And this was in accordance with fact. This initiation, this intercourse with the gods, occurred at places quite unknown to the populace. “Temples of Mysteries” was the name given to these places of initiation, and it was from their midst that mankind was governed.

That which took place in the Temples of Mysteries was, accordingly, incomprehensible to the populace, and only very slightly did the latter understand the purposes of their great leaders. The people could, indeed, understand with their senses only what happened immediately on the earth, not what was revealed from higher worlds. Consequently the teachings of the leaders had also to be clad in a form which was unlike the form used in the communication of earthly matters. The language used in the mysteries between the gods and their messengers was, indeed, no earthly tongue, nor were the forms assumed by the gods in their manifestations of an earthly kind. “In fiery clouds” did they, the higher spirits, appear to their messengers, in order to instruct them how men were to be guided. Only a man can appear in human form; entities whose faculties surpass the human level must manifest under forms which are not to be found among those of earth.

The fact that the “Messengers of the Gods” could receive the revelations was owing to their attainment of the highest degree of development among their human brothers. They had already, in earlier stages of evolution, gone through what the majority of men have yet to experience. Only in a special way did they belong to this contemporaneous mankind. They could assume the human form, but their psycho-spiritual faculties were superhuman in character. They were, therefore, divine-human, double entities. Hence they might also be described as higher spirits who had assumed human bodies, in order to help mankind further along its earthly path. Their true home was not on the earth. These entities guided man without being able to communicate to him the principles according to which they were leading him. For up to the fifth sub-race of the Atlanteans, the Original Semites, men had absolutely no capacity whatever wherewith to grasp these principles. Not till the power of thought began to develop in this sub-race did such capacity exist. But this faculty developed slowly and gradually. Even the last sub-races of the Atlanteans could as yet understand very little of the principles of their divine leaders. They began by having a very vague presentiment of such principles. Consequently, their conceptions and also the laws mentioned in connection with their civic institutions were intuitive rather than definitely thought out.

The chief leader of the fifth Atlantean sub-race had for his object to bring it gradually to such a point that it could, later on, and after the disappearance of the Atlantean mode of living, initiate a new one, such as would be completely regulated by the power of thought.

Now we must realise that the end of the Atlantean era is characterized by these groups of human entities. There are, firstly, the so-called “Messengers of the Gods,” who were advanced far beyond the great mass of people, teaching Divine Wisdom and performing divine deeds. Secondly, there was the great mass itself, in which the power of thought was in a state of torpor, although it possessed other natural faculties which have since been lost. Thirdly, there was a smaller number of such as developed the thinking capacity. These, it is true, gradually lost the primeval faculties of the Atlanteans; but they developed instead the capacity to grasp in thought the principles of the “Messengers of the Gods.” The second group of human entities was destined to die out gradually. The third, however, admitted of such an education by the entities of the first group that it could henceforward take over its own guidance.

From the midst of this third group selection was made by the aforesaid chief leader (who is known in Theosophical literature by the name of the Manu) of those most capable of forming the nucleus of a new mankind. These fittest people were to be found in the fifth sub-race. The thought-power of the sixth and seventh sub-races was in a certain way already on the downward path, and no longer fit for further development. The best qualities of the best men were to be developed. This was achieved by the leader sequestering the elect in a particular spot of the earth—in Central Asia—and freeing them from every influence of those left behind or gone astray. The task undertaken by the leader was to conduct his disciples so far on that they could grasp in their own souls and through their own thought the principles according to which they were previously directed and which they faintly understood. Men were now meant to understand the divine powers which they had formerly followed blindly. So far, the gods had led men through their messengers; henceforth men should know of these divine Beings. They were to consider themselves as the executive organs of divine Providence.

This isolated group had to face an important change. The divine leader was in their midst in human form. From such divine messengers mankind had previously received directions or commands as to what was to be done or left undone. It had been taught in sciences which referred to what could be observed by the senses. Men suspected the fact of a divine government of the world, they felt as much in their own actions, but they had no clear knowledge of this fact. Their leader now spoke to them quite differently. He taught them that invisible powers governed what was visibly before them; and that they themselves were servants of these invisible powers; that, with their thoughts, they had to execute the laws of these powers; and that the invisible spiritual element was the Creator and Preserver of the visible material world. Hitherto they had looked up to their visible messengers of the gods, to those superhuman Initiates of whom he who talked to them thus was himself one, and by whom they were directed as to what to do or to avoid. Now however they were found worthy of being instructed by the divine messenger of the gods. Powerful was the injunction impressed again and again on his followers: “Hitherto ye have seen those who were your leaders, but there are higher Leaders whom ye see not, and ye are subject to these Leaders. Fulfil the commands of the God whom ye see not, and obey Him of whom ye can make to yourselves no image.” Thus sounded, from the lips of the great Leader, the new and highest commandment, prescribing the worship of a God whom no image, visible to the senses, could resemble, of whom, therefore, none such should be made. An echo of this great primary commandment of the fifth race is heard in the well-known phrase: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” (Exodus, chapter xx, 3 and 4.)

Assisting the chief leader (Manu), there were other messengers of the gods who executed his designs with regard to particular branches of life, and helped in the development of the new race. For the object was to arrange the whole of life conformably with the new conception of a divine government of the world. The thoughts of men were to be turned in every respect from the visible to the invisible. Life is determined by natural forces. The course of this human life depends on day and night, winter and summer, sunshine and rain. How these momentous visible facts are connected with the invisible (divine) forces, and how man should act so as to live in accordance with these invisible powers—all this was shown to him. All knowledge and all work were to be pursued in this sense. In the course of the stars and in atmospheric conditions, man was to see the decrees of Providence, the expression of divine Wisdom. Astronomy and meteorology were taught in this sense. And man was to bring his work, his moral life, into harmony with the laws of the divine, that are so rich in wisdom. Life was ordered according to divine commandments, since in the course of the stars, in meteorological conditions, etc., divine thoughts were fathomed. Man was to bring his works into harmony with dispositions of the gods through sacrificial deeds.

It was the intention of the Manu to direct everything in human life towards the higher worlds. All human action, all arrangements were to bear a religious character. In this way the Manu wished to lead the way to that which constitutes the special task of the fifth Root-Race. This Race was to learn to guide itself onward through its own thoughts. Such self-determination, however, can lead to salvation only when man gives his own self also to the service of the higher powers. Man should make use of his thinking capacity; but this power of thought should be uplifted by mindfulness of the Divine.

To grasp completely what happened at that time, it is also necessary to know that the development of the thinking capacity, beginning with the fifth sub-race of the Atlanteans, brought about a still further consequence. In a certain direction men acquired branches of knowledge and performed acts which were in no immediate connection with what the Manu had to consider as his proper task. These acquirements and arts lacked, first of all, the religious character. They dawned on man at a time when his only thought was to exploit them for his own advantage, for his personal wants.—To such acquirements belongs, for instance, that of Fire in its application to human industry. At the beginning of the Atlantean era man had no need of fire, as the vital force was still at his disposal. With this decrease of his ability to avail himself of this force, he was obliged to learn how to fashion his tools and implements from so-called lifeless things. Here the use of fire became most advantageous, and it was the same with regard to other natural forces. Man had also learned to make use of these forces without being conscious of their divine origin. This, indeed, was inevitable. Man was not to be forced to link these things, which assisted his own mentality, with the divine order of things. This he was rather meant to do voluntarily in his thoughts. The intention of the Manu was, then, to evoke in men a spontaneous need to establish a connection between such things and the higher order of the world. Men could, as it were, choose whether they would exploit the acquired knowledge for purely personal benefit, or use it in the religious service of a higher world. Just as man had previously been forced to consider himself as a part of the divine ruling of the world, from which there flowed in on him, for instance, the mastery of the vital force without any need of mental effort, so now he could also make use of natural forces without giving thought to the divine. Of those whom the Manu had gathered round himself, all were not ripe for the change. Indeed, very few of them were so. And only from these could the nucleus of the new race be actually formed by the Manu. It was, then, only with this small number that the Manu retired, in order to further their development, while the rest became merged in the general mass of mankind. It was then from this small number of men, thus finally grouped round the Manu, that all the true germs of progress in the fifth Root-Race up to the present time were derived. Thus, however, it becomes plain that the whole development of this fifth Root-Race displays two characteristic features. One of these distinguishes those who are animated by higher ideals, and who consider themselves as children of a divine universal power; the other appears in those who make everything subservient only to personal interests, to selfish ends.

This little band remained with the Manu until it had become strong enough to act in the new spirit, and until its members could set forth to impart this new spirit to that portion of mankind which remained over from the preceding races. This new spirit naturally assumed a different character with various nations, according to the different phases of their development. The old surviving characteristics became mixed with what the messengers of the Manu brought into the various parts of the world, and in this way manifold new cultures and civilizations arose.

The fittest personalities of those surrounding the Manu were chosen to become initiated little by little into his divine wisdom, so that they might become teachers to the rest. Thus it was that along with the old messengers of the gods there now arose a new kind of Initiates. These were they who developed their mentality in exactly the same manner as the rest of their fellow-men. The divine messengers of old—and the Manu—had not done so. Their development belongs to higher worlds. They brought their higher wisdom into earthly relations. What they gave to mankind was “a gift from on high.” Before the middle of the Atlantean era men were not advanced far enough to grasp with their own faculties the import of divine decrees. Now, in the period indicated, they were to reach this stage. Their earthly thought was to rise to the conception of the divine. Human Initiates united themselves with those who were superhuman. This signifies an important change in the development of humanity. The first Atlanteans had not yet the choice of viewing their leaders as divine messengers, or of not doing so. For what these accomplished appeared, perforce, as a deed of the higher worlds. A divine origin was stamped on it. On account of their power, the divine messengers of the Atlantean era were therefore sanctified Beings, surrounded by the lustre conferred on them by this power. The human Initiates of the subsequent era, if considered externally, are men among men. To be sure, they remained in touch with the higher worlds, receptive of the revelations and appearances of the messengers of the gods. Only on exceptional occasions, in the case of a higher necessity, they made use of certain powers, conferred on them from that source. Then did they perform feats which men failed to interpret in terms of the known laws and therefore rightly viewed as miracles. Nevertheless it is the higher purpose of all this to place men on their own feet, to develop perfectly their mentality. The human Initiates are now the mediators between the people and the higher powers; and Initiation alone qualifies one for intercourse with the messengers of the gods.

The human Initiates, the holy teachers, became, then, in the beginning of the fifth Root-Race, the leaders of the rest of mankind. The great priest-kings of prehistoric times—attested to, if not historically, at least mythologically—belong to this class of Initiates. The higher messengers of the gods gradually withdrew from this earth, handing over the leadership to these human Initiates, but still assisting them by deed and word. Were this not so, man would not attain to a free use of his mentality. The world stands under divine guidance; but man should not be forced to acknowledge this fact, but should do so in consequence of the free exercise of his mental capacity. Only when he has attained to this do the Initiates gradually unveil to him their secrets. But this cannot be attained suddenly. Rather is the whole development of the fifth Root-Race a slow path to this goal. At first the Manu himself still led his flock like children, but afterwards the leadership was gradually transferred to human Initiates. And, to-day, the progress still continues to consist in a mingling of conscious and unconscious acting and thinking on the part of men. Only at the end of the fifth Root-Race, when, after the progress made in the course of the sixth and seventh sub-races, a sufficiently large number of men will be ready to receive knowledge, the greatest Initiate will be able to reveal himself to them publicly. And this human Initiate will then be able to take over the further general leadership, just as the Manu had done at the end of the fourth Root-Race. The education of the fifth Root-Race has therefore as its aim the production of a larger portion of mankind who shall attain so far as to follow freely a human Manu, just as was done by the nucleus of this fifth race with regard to the divine Manu.