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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Atlantis and Lemuria
GA 11

Chapters IV and V are combined on this webpage to correspond with the modern contemporary Chapter order and ensure inclusion in the Search engine.

IV. The Lemurian Era

The following contains a fragment from the Âkâshic Records which refers to a very remote prehistoric epoch in the development of mankind. This epoch precedes that which has been delineated in the previous chapters. The subject is the third human Root-Race, which in Theosophical books is said to have dwelt on the Lemurian continent. This continent lay—according to these books—in the south of Asia, but extended roughly from Ceylon to Madagascar. Also the modern southern Asia and parts of Africa belonged to it. Although in the reading of the Âkâshic Records all possible precaution has been observed, it must nevertheless be emphasized that in no case must a dogmatic character be claimed for these communications. Merely to read of things and happenings so far removed from the present is by no means easy, but a translation of what has been seen and deciphered into the language of our time entails almost insuperable obstacles. Dates will be given later. They will be better grasped when we have given an account of the whole Lemurian era, and also of that which embraces the fifth Root-Race up to the present time. The things which are here communicated are surprising even to the occultist when he reads them for the first time—although the word “surprise” does not quite suit the case. This, however, is why he is allowed to communicate them only after a most careful examination.

The fourth (Atlantean) Root-Race was preceded by the so-called Lemurian. In the course of its development the earth and mankind underwent transformations of the greatest significance. Nevertheless, something will first be said about the character of this Root-Race subsequently to these transformations, a delineation of which will follow. This Root-Race as a whole had not yet developed memory. Men were able, it is true, to form conceptions of things and events; but these conceptions did not remain in the memory, and in consequence men did not possess language in its true sense. What they could produce in this connection were rather natural sounds which expressed their sensations of pleasure, joy, pain, and so on, but which did not designate external things. Their mental conceptions, however, had quite a different power from those of later men. They influenced their surroundings by means of this power. Other men, animals, plants, and even inanimate objects could feel this action and were worked upon by mere mind-images. Thus the Lemurian could communicate with his fellow-men without the need of speech. This intercourse consisted in a kind of “thought-reading.” The power of his conceptions was derived by the Lemurian immediately from the things that surrounded him. It flowed on him from the power of growth in plants, from the vital energy in animals. Thus did he understand plants and animals in their inner working and life. Indeed, he thus understood even the physical and chemical forces of inanimate things. In building anything, he did not need first to calculate the bearing-capacity of a trunk or the weight of a block of stone: he could see how much the trunk could bear, how the block would settle through its weight. The Lemurian built in this way without any art of engineering, but with the certainty of a kind of instinct working out as imagination. And withal he had his body under great control. If necessary he could steel his arm through a mere effort of will. Consequently he could, for instance, raise enormous burdens. Just as the Atlantean disposed of the vital energy, so the Lemurian was master of his will. He was—let not the expression be misunderstood—a born magician in all spheres of the lower human activities.

The main object, too, of the Lemurians was to develop the will and the power of conception. This was the ruling motive in the education of children. Boys were hardened in the most energetic manner. They had to learn to face dangers, to overcome pain, to perform daring deeds. Those who could not bear tortures or face dangers were not considered useful members of society, but were allowed to perish in the course of their hardships. What the Âkâshic Records show in regard to this method of rearing children surpasses all that present-day man can picture to himself in his wildest fancy. The endurance of heat up to scorching point, and the piercing of the body with sharp points, were quite common occurrences.—The training of girls was different. It is true that hardening was also their lot, but the chief aim lay here in the development of a powerful imagination. For instance, girls were exposed to a storm that they might feel its terrible beauty with calmness; they had to witness fights between men fearlessly, feeling only admiration for the display of strength and prowess. A disposition to dreaming, to revelling in fancy, was in this way fostered in girls; but this disposition was exceptionally prized, and in the absence of memory there was no chance of its degeneration. These dreamy or imaginative conceptions lasted only while there was an external occasion for them. So far, then, they were well equipped for external things. They did not lose themselves in the fathomless. It was the imaginative and visionary in Nature herself that sank deep into the soul of woman.

Until the end of their era the Lemurians had no dwellings in our sense of the word. They lived in natural shelters; for instance, in caves which they modified according to their needs. At a later period they built such caves in the earth; and then they developed great skill in such building. But it must not be thought that they did not also erect artificial buildings, although these did not serve as dwellings. They originated in the earlier period from the need of giving to the things of nature a form moulded by man. Hills were remoulded so that man might find pleasure and gratification in their form. For the same reason stones were joined together, and this was done also with the aim of making them serve some useful purpose. The places where children were hardened were surrounded by walls of this kind. But ever grander and more ingenious, toward the end of this epoch, became the structures devoted to the worship of “divine Wisdom and divine Art.” These edifices were in every respect different from what served, at a later stage, as temples, for they were also places of instruction and scientific study. Whoever was found fit was permitted to become initiated into the science of universal laws and the application of these laws. Whereas the Lemurian was a born magician, this talent for art and insight was here cultivated. Only those could be admitted who, through every process of hardening, had become invincible in the highest degree. That which transpired in these institutions remained the most profound secret to all but the few. Here the knowledge and mastery of natural forces was learnt by immediate perception, but this cognisance was a kind of transformation of the natural forces into the power of will in man. Thereby he could himself achieve what Nature achieves. What mankind accomplished later by means of reflection or combination was then a kind of instinctive activity. Of course, in this connection, the word “instinct” must not be used in the sense in which it is usually applied to the animal world, for the achievements of the Lemurians rank immeasurably higher than all that the animal world can produce instinctively. They far surpassed all that mankind, through memory, intellect, and imagination, has since acquired in arts and sciences. To make this more clearly understood one might call these teaching-places “High-schools of the powers of will and of the clairvoyant power of forming conceptions.” From them proceeded such men as became in every respect rulers of the others. It is difficult to-day to give in words a correct conception of all these conditions, for everything on earth has since undergone a change. Nature herself and all human life were different then; and consequently human labour and the relation of man to man were quite otherwise than what is customary now.

The atmosphere was as yet much denser than later during the Atlantean era; and water was much more fluid. Also that which now forms our firm earth-crust was not yet hardened to the same extent as later. The vegetable and animal worlds were advanced only to the stage of amphibious animals, of birds and the lower mammals, and of growths analogous to our palms and similar trees. But all forms were different from those of the present. What is now found small in size was then developed to gigantic proportions. Our small ferns were then trees which formed mighty forests. The higher mammals of to-day were not in existence at that time. On the other hand, a great portion of mankind was at so low a stage of development that it must be described as altogether animal. In fact, the foregoing description of men applies only to a small number. The remainder lived on the animal level. Indeed, these animal-men were, in their external form, and in their mode of living, altogether different from that small number. They hardly differed from the lower mammals, whom in a way they also resembled in form.

A few words must also be added as to the significance of the places of worship previously mentioned. It was not exactly religion that was fostered there. It was “divine Wisdom and Art.” Man felt what was given him there to be a direct gift from the spiritual world-powers, and when he shared in this gift he looked upon himself as a “servant” of these universal powers. He felt himself “consecrated” in opposition to all that was unholy. If one would speak of religion at this stage of mankind, one might call it “religion of the will.” Religious feeling and consecration lay in this, that a man guarded the powers conferred on him as a “secret” deep and divine, and that he led such a life as sanctified his power. Very great were the awe and reverence with which persons possessed of such powers were regarded by others; nor was this enjoined by laws or in any other way, but was the result of the direct power exercised by such men. One who was not initiated found himself quite naturally under the magical influence of the Initiates, and as a matter of course the latter considered themselves consecrated persons. For in their temples they were in a true sense partakers in the working of natural forces. They gazed into the creative laboratory of Nature. What they experienced was intercourse with the Beings who work at the building of the world itself. This may be called an intercourse with the gods, and what developed later as “Initiation” or “Mysteries” sprang from this original mode of intercourse between men and the gods. In later times this intercourse was bound to undergo a transformation, because the human conception, the human spirit, assumed other forms.

Special importance attaches to one point connected with the progress of the Lemurian development, in consequence of the mode of life which was pursued by the women. They developed, by this way of living, special human powers. The unity of their imaginative power with Nature became the basis of a higher development of the imaginative life. Through their senses they drew into themselves the forces of Nature, and allowed these to react on their souls. Thus were the germs of memory formed. And with memory there entered into the world the capacity to form the first and very simplest of moral conceptions. The culture of the will in the masculine element brought, at the outset, no development of the mind. Man followed instinctively either natural impulses or influences emanating from the Initiates. Womankind gave birth to the first conceptions of “good and evil.” Here they began on the one hand to love that which made a special impression on their imaginative life, and on the other hand to hate its opposite. While the rule exercised by the masculine element was directed more to the external effect of the powers of will, to the management of natural powers, in the feminine element there arose at the same time an impulse through the feelings, through the inner personal human powers. He only can comprehend the development of mankind correctly who realizes that the first steps forward in the sphere of imagination were made by women. The development of habits dependent on the meditative, imaginative life, on the cultivation of memory which formed the nucleus of a life of order, of a sort of moral life, came from this side. Whereas man perceived and employed natural forces, woman became the first interpreter of these. It was a new and special mode of life that here arose—that of Thought. This mode had something far more personal than that of men. Now we must understand that this feminine mode was itself really a kind of clairvoyance, even though it differed from the magic of the will on the part of man. Woman was, in her soul, responsive to another kind of spiritual power,—to such as appealed more to the element of feeling, and less to the spiritual element to which man was subjected. There emanated thus from men an influence which was more naturally divine, from women one that was more psychically divine.

V. Woman in the Third Root-Race

The development undergone by woman during the Lemurian era qualified her for an important rôle on the earth in connection with the beginning of the next Atlantean Root-Race. This was ushered in under the influence of highly developed entities who were acquainted with the laws of the moulding of races, and who were capable of turning the existing forces of human nature into such courses as led to the formation of a new race. Later on, a special reference will be made to these entities. For the present suffice it to say that superhuman wisdom and power were immanent in them. They separated a small number of the Lemurian men and appointed them to become the progenitors of the subsequent Atlantean Race. The place chosen lay in the torrid zone. The men of this little clan attained, under their guidance, the mastery of Nature's forces. They were full of energy, and knew how to wrest from Nature treasures of many kinds. They knew how to cultivate fields and how to utilize their fruits. Through the training to which they had been subjected (compare previous chapter), they had become men of strong will. It was in woman, however, that the mind and the soul were developed, for it was in her that memory and imagination, and all connected therewith, were found to have been already fostered.

The leaders to whom reference has been made brought about an arrangement of the little flock into small groups, and to woman they entrusted the ordering and arranging of these groups. Women had acquired, by means of their memory, the faculty of utilizing for the future all the experiences that they had once known. That which had proved valuable yesterday was turned by them to present advantage; and they were clearly aware that it would likewise be useful to-morrow. The arrangements of the communal life came thus from women. Under their influence the notions of “good and evil” were developed. Through their reflective life they had acquired an understanding of Nature. Out of their observations of Nature grew the ideas according to which they guided the actions of men. The leaders arranged things in such wise that the will-power and superabundant energy of men were ennobled and purified by the “soul” in woman. Of course, all this is to be considered as at an elementary stage. The words of our languages are too apt to suggest ideas derived from contemporary life.

Indirectly, through the awakened psychical life of women, did the leaders develop that of the men. In the above-mentioned colony, the influence of women was therefore very great. They were consulted whenever it was desired to interpret the signs of Nature. The whole mode of their psychic life was, however, still such that it was ruled by the “secret” psychic powers of men. To give an approximate, if not quite adequate, conception of this state, one might speak of a somnambulistic perception on the part of these women. The secrets of Nature were revealed to them, and the impulses of their actions were imparted in a kind of higher dream-state. Everything to them was the expression of spiritual powers, and appeared in the form of psychic faculties and visions. They abandoned themselves to the mystic working of their psychic powers. They were prompted to their actions by “inner voices” or by that which was told them by plants, animals, and stones, the wind and the clouds, or the rustling of the trees.

From soul-conditions of such a kind arose that which may be called human religion. The psychic element in Nature and in human life came gradually to be reverenced and worshipped. Some women attained to special predominance, because they were able to interpret from certain mysterious depths the phenomena of the world. So it came to pass that with these women that which was within them transposed itself into a kind of Nature-speech. For the beginning of speech lies in something akin to song. The power of thought converted itself into that of audible sound. The inner rhythm of Nature resounded through the life of “wise” women. People gathered round such women, and their song-like utterances were felt as the expression of higher powers. Thus did divine worship take its inception among men. It would be an error to consider that there was any “sense” in the spoken word at that time. Only the sound, tone, and rhythm were felt. No one had any aim other than that of drawing strength into the soul from what was heard. The whole procedure was under the guidance of the higher leaders. They had inspired the “wise” priestesses with tones and rhythms in a manner which cannot be described here, and it was thus that women were able to affect the souls of men in such a way as to ennoble them. It may be said that it was altogether in this manner that the true soul-life was awakened.

The Âkâshic Records reveal what are in this respect scenes of much beauty. One of these shall be described. We are in a wood close to a gigantic tree. The sun has just risen in the east. Mighty are the shadows thrown by the palm-like tree across the cleared space round it. With her face to the east, and in a state of exaltation, we discern a priestess on a seat prepared of curious natural objects and plants. Slowly and in a rhythmic cadence flow from her lips certain wondrous sounds which are repeated again and again. Ranged in large circles, a number of men and women sit round her with dreamy faces, absorbing inner life from the sounds. Still other scenes may be witnessed. At another place, arranged in like manner, a priestess chants in a similar way, but her tones have in them something more mighty, more powerful, and the men around her move in rhythmic dances. For this was the other method by means of which the “soul” entered mankind. The mysterious rhythms which man had caught from Nature were imitated in the movements of his own limbs. Thus was it that man felt himself at one with Nature and with the Powers that ruled her.

The part of the earth on which was reared the germ of the coming human race was particularly adapted for this purpose. It was situated where the still agitated and stormy earth had more or less settled down. For Lemuria was greatly troubled by storms. The earth had not then reached its later density. The thin soil was everywhere undermined by volcanic forces bursting forth in smaller or greater streams. Mighty volcanoes were found nearly everywhere, and continually exercised a devastating activity. In all their arrangements men were accustomed to take this fiery agency into consideration. They even turned the fire to advantage in respect of their works and enterprises. The state of things was such that this natural fire could be turned to account in human labour just as is the case to-day with artificial fire. It was the activity of volcanic fire that also brought about the ruin of the Lemurian continent. The portion of Lemuria in which the Root-Race of the Atlanteans was to appear had, it is true, a hot climate, but nevertheless it was exempt, on the whole, from subjection to volcanic agency. Human nature could develop itself here more calmly and peacefully. The more nomadic life of former times was abandoned, and fixed settlements increased in number.

One has to remember that the human body was at this time still very plastic and flexible. It was still in a state of formation, in keeping with man's inner changes. At a recent era, for instance, men were still quite different as to their external appearance. The external influence of the country and of the climate continued to affect their form. But in the specified colony the body became increasingly an expression of the inner psychic life. This colony contained at the same time a species of men who were advanced, and of a finer external form. It should be said that the true human form was created by what had been clone by the leaders. The work was certainly very slow and gradual, but the progress began with the unfolding of the psychic life in man; and the still soft and plastic body adapted itself accordingly. It is a law of human development that the transforming influence of man on his physical body decreases with progress. Indeed, that physical body only acquired a fairly firm form through the development of intellectual power, and contemporaneously with the solidification of the stony, mineral and metallic formations of the earth, which were connected with this development. For in the Lemurian, and even in the Atlantean era also, stones and metals were far softer than they afterwards became. This is not in contradiction with the fact that there still exist descendants of the last Lemurians and Atlanteans who even now display forms no less solid than those of the later human races. These remainders had to adapt themselves to the altered conditions surrounding them, and consequently became more rigid. This is precisely the cause of their gradual extinction. They did not mould themselves from within, but their less developed inner nature was forced from without into rigidity and thereby brought to a standstill. And this standstill is truly a retrogression, for even the inner life deteriorated because it could not live itself out in the solidified external body.

Animal life displayed a still greater capacity for change. (Reference will be made later on to the kinds of animals present at the time of the earliest races, both as to their origin and also as to the appearance of new forms of animals during the subsequent history of men. Suffice it here to say that the existing animal species were in a state of constant transformation, and that new species continued to arise.) This transformation was naturally gradual. The reasons of the transformation lay, partly, in the change of domicile and mode of life. Animals had an extraordinarily quick capacity for adaptation to new conditions. The plastic body altered its organs with comparative quickness, so that, after a longer or shorter time, the descendants of a particular species well-nigh ceased to resemble their progenitors. It was also thus with plants, but in a more pronounced degree. The greatest influence on the transformation of man and animals was due to man himself, by his either instinctively bringing living beings into such surroundings that they assumed definite forms, or by attempting to produce changes by breeding. The transforming influence of man on nature was, at that time, incalculably greater than is the case at present, and this was especially the case in the colony described. For here this transformation was guided by the leaders in a manner which was not realized by men. So it came about that, when men went forth to found the various Atlantean races, they took with them highly advanced knowledge as to the breeding of animals and plants. The growth of civilization was, then, essentially a consequence of the knowledge which they had brought with them. Nevertheless it must be emphasized that these instructions were only instinctive in character, and in essence they still remained so among the first Atlantean races.

The predominance of the woman-soul, already indicated, is particularly strong in the last Lemurian epoch, and continues into the Atlantean era, when the fourth sub-race was in preparation. It must not, however, be thought that this was the case with the whole of mankind; but it holds true as regards that portion of the earthly population from which came forth, at a later period, the truly advanced races. This influence was most potent on all that is “unconscious” in, or about man. The acquisition of certain habitual gestures, the subtleties of sense perception, the feeling for beauty, a good deal of the sensitive and emotional life common to men in general, emanated originally from the soul of woman. It is not saying too much if we interpret the communications of the Âkâshic Records to this effect: “Civilized nations have a bodily structure and a bodily expression, as well as certain bases of the physically psychic life, which have been stamped on them by woman.”