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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Atlantis and Lemuria
GA 11

VII. The Beginnings of Sex Duality

A description of the constitution of man before the division into male and female sexes must now be given. The body consisted then of a soft, plastic mass. Over it the will-power was far more potent than was the case with mankind subsequently. On his separation from the parent being, man appeared, it is true, as an organism with members, but incomplete. His organs continued their further development apart from the parent body. Much of that which at a later period ripened within the maternal organism was then brought to perfection by an external force akin to our will-power. The parent's fostering care was necessary to promote such a ripening from without. Man brought with him into the world certain organs which he afterwards discarded. Others, still quite imperfect at his first appearance, completed their development. The whole process permits of a comparison with liberation from an egg-form and the casting off of an outer covering; but we must here not think of a hard and egg-like shell.

Man's body was warm-blooded. This must be distinctly stated, for in former times it was otherwise, as will afterwards be shown. The process of maturing apart from the mother-entity was accomplished under the influence of increased warmth, conveyed in like manner from without. But by no means must we imagine a hatching-out of the egg-shaped man—so named for the sake of brevity. The conditions of warmth and fire on the earth were different then from those of later times. By means of his own force a man could constrain and confine within a certain space fire or warmth. In short, he could concentrate heat. He was thus in a position to supply warmth to the young creature that required it for his development.

The organs of motion were at that time man's most highly developed organs. The sense-organs of to-day were then quite unevolved. The most advanced were the organ of hearing and the organs for the perception of cold and heat (the sense of feeling); still far behind was the perception of light. Man was born with the senses of hearing and of touch, and then, somewhat later, the light-perception was evolved.

All that is stated here refers to the latest period before the separation of the sexes. The latter proceeded slowly and gradually. For a long time before its actual appearance, mankind began to develop in such a way that one individual was born with more of the masculine, the other with more of the feminine character. Nevertheless, the characteristics of the opposite sex were present in every individual, so that spontaneous generation was possible, though not at all times, for it was dependent upon the influences of external conditions at certain seasons of the year. In diverse matters mankind as a whole depended to a large extent on such external circumstances. For that reason he had to regulate all his undertakings in accordance with such outer conditions; in accordance, for example, with the course of sun and moon. This regulation did not, however, take place consciously, in the present sense of the term, but was carried out in a manner which must rather be called instinctive, a term indicating the mental life of the man of that time.

This mental life cannot be described as an actual inner life. Bodily and mental activities and qualities were not as yet rigidly separated from one another. The outer life of Nature was still experienced by the soul. It was above all on the sense of hearing that every single vibration from without made a powerful impression. Every quiver in the air, every movement in his surroundings was “heard.” The wind and the water expressed in their motions what to man was an “eloquent language.” It was a perception of the mysterious weaving and working in Nature which thus penetrated man. And this weaving and working resounded again in his soul. His activity was an echo of these influences. He transformed the perception of sound into his own activity. He lived amid those surgings of sound, and brought them into expression by means of his own will. In like manner was he impelled to accomplish all his daily work. To a somewhat less degree, indeed, he was affected by the energy playing upon his feelings. Nevertheless these too acted an important part. The surroundings were sensed by him within his own body and he acted accordingly. By the activities of his feelings he knew when and how he ought to work. By these he knew where to settle, or recognised the dangers threatening his life, and so avoided them. He regulated the taking of sustenance accordingly.

Altogether different from that of later times was the course taken by the rest of his mental life. Pictures lived in his soul, but not as representations of external things. When, for example, the man moved from a colder into a warmer place, there arose in his soul a definite colour-picture, but this colour-picture had nothing to do with any external object. It sprang from an inner force akin to the will. Pictures like these continually filled the soul. The whole can only be compared with the rising and falling dream-visions of man. Only at that time the pictures were not unregulated, but in conformity with laws; and for that reason we must not speak, at this stage of humanity, of a dream-consciousness, but rather of a picture-consciousness. In the main it was colour-pictures with which this consciousness was filled, but these were not the only kind. Thus man wandered through the world, experiencing its events by means of his senses of hearing and feeling, but in his inner life this world was reflected in pictures, very unlike those existing in the outer world. Pleasure and pain were bound up with these soul-pictures in a much smaller degree than is the case with man's ideas to-day, which reflect his perceptions in the world outside. Doubtless one picture caused him pleasure, another disgust; the one hatred, and the other love; but these sensations bore a much fainter character. On the other hand strong feelings were produced by something else. Man was then much more agile, much more active than later. Everything in his surroundings, as well as the pictures in his soul, stirred him to activity, to movement. Now when his activity, unhindered, had free play, he experienced a sensation of well-being; when, however, this activity was checked in any direction, he was overcome by unhappiness and discomfort. The absence or presence of opposition to his will determined the content of his life of feeling, his pleasure and his pain. And this pleasure or this pain discharged itself again in his own soul as a living world of pictures. Clear, bright, beautiful pictures lived within him when he was able to expand unhindered; gloomy and misshapen were those which appeared in his soul when his movements were hampered.

So far the average man has been described. In the case of those who had developed into a kind of superhuman state, the inner life was different. With them the soul-life was not of this instinctive character. What they perceived through their senses of hearing and of feeling were Nature's deeper secrets, and these they could consciously interpret. In the roaring of the wind, in the rustling of the trees, the laws and the wisdom of Nature were disclosed; and in their soul-pictures these were not mere reflections of an outer world, but images of the spiritual powers in the world. It was not the things of sense which they perceived, but spiritual intelligences. If the average man, for example, experienced a sensation of fear, a hideous sinister picture would arise in his soul. The superhuman being received by means of such pictures information, revelation from the spiritual beings of the world. The processes of Nature did not appear to him as they do to the naturalist of to-day, dependent on lifeless natural laws, but rather as the deeds of spiritual beings. The outer reality did not as yet exist, for there were no outer senses, but to the higher beings the inner reality revealed itself. The spirit poured its rays into them as the sunlight streams into the physical eye of the man of to-day. In these beings was knowledge in its fullest sense, that which is called intuitive knowledge. There was no such thing as combining and speculating among them, but a direct contemplation of the working of spiritual beings. These superhuman individualities could thus absorb directly, into their wills, communications coming from the spiritual world. Consciously they led the others. They received their mission from the spiritual world and acted in accordance with it.

Now when the time arrived at which the sexes separated, these beings naturally considered it their task to influence the new life in conformity with their mission. The regulation of sexual life originated with them. All arrangements which had to do with the generation of mankind had their source in them. In this they acted with perfect consciousness, but the other human beings were sensible of the impulse only as an instinct implanted in them. Sexual love was implanted in man by direct thought-transference; and all its expressions were at first of the noblest kind. Everything in this domain which has taken on an ugly character dates from a later period, when man had become more independent, and when he had sullied a desire originally pure. In these early times there was no such thing as a satisfaction of sexual desire for its own sake. Everything then was a service of sacrifice for the continuance of human existence. Generation was regarded as a sacred thing, as a service which man owed to the world, and sacrificial priests were the leaders and rulers in this domain.

Of another kind were the influences of the semi-superhuman beings. The latter were not developed to the stage at which they could receive the revelations of the spiritual world in all their purity. In their soul-pictures there arose besides the impressions of the spiritual world the activities also of the world of sense. Those who were in the fullest sense superhuman beings had no sensation of either pleasure or pain from the external world. They abandoned themselves entirely to the revelations of the spiritual powers. Wisdom flowed into them as light flows into the creatures of sense. Their will was directed towards nothing else but to action in accordance with this wisdom, and in action of this kind lay their highest pleasure. Wisdom, Will, and Activity composed their very being. It was otherwise with the semi-superhuman beings. They felt the desire to receive impressions from without, and connected pleasure with the satisfaction of this desire, disappointment with its lack. They were thus distinguishable from the superhuman beings. For the latter, impressions from without were nothing more than confirmation of spiritual revelations. They might behold the outer world and receive nothing more than a reflection of that which they had already received through the spirit. The semi-superhuman beings experienced something new to them, and on that account they were able to be the leaders of mankind, when the latter began to change the mere pictures in the soul into images, into representations of outer objects. This happened when a part of the earlier human generative force turned inwards and when beings possessing a brain were evolved. For with the brain man also developed the capacity to change external sense-impressions into mind-conceptions. It must be said, therefore, that man was impelled by semi-superhuman beings to turn his soul towards the external world of sense. It was, indeed, denied him to expose his own soul-pictures directly to pure spiritual influences. The ability to generate his kind was implanted in him as an instinctive impulse by the superhuman beings. Mentally he would have had to lead a sort of dream-existence at first, had not the semi-superhuman beings interfered. Swayed by them, his soul-pictures were directed to the world outside. He became a being self-conscious in the world of sense. And thus man achieved the ability to guide his actions consciously and according to his perceptions in the world of sense. Once he had acted from a kind of instinct, under the sway of his external surroundings and the energizing forces playing upon him from higher individualities. Now he began to follow the urgings, the allurements, of his own conceptions. And with this the free will of mankind appeared in the world. That was the beginning of “Good and Evil.”

Before advancing further in this direction something must be said about man's environment on the earth. Side by side with man there existed animals as well, which according to their kind were at the same stage of development as he was. In accordance with our present conceptions they would be counted as reptiles. Besides these there were lower forms of the animal world. Now there was an essential difference between man and the animals. On account of his still plastic body, man could only live in those regions of the earth which had not as yet reached the densest material form, and in these regions animals possessing a like plastic body lived with him. In other regions, however, animals lived which had already dense bodies and which had also already developed unisexuality and their sense organs. Whence they came will be shown later. They could develop no farther because their bodies had taken on the denser matter too soon. Some species among them have disappeared, some have developed further after their kind into the present forms. Man was able to reach higher forms because he remained in those regions which at that time suited his structure. On that account his body remained so flexible and soft that he was able to single out of himself those organs which were capable of fructification by the mind. His external body had then advanced so far that it could densify and become a protecting sheath for the finer mental organs. But all human bodies were not so far developed. Those that were so advanced were few. These were first of all vivified by the mind. Others were not vivified. Had the mind entered the latter as well, it would only have been able partially to evolve, because of the imperfect inner organs. And so these human personalities had for the time being to continue their development as a kind of mindless creature. A third kind had proceeded so far that feeble mental impulses could make themselves felt. These stood between the other two kinds. Their mental activity remained dull. They had to be led by higher mental powers. Between these three kinds were all possible grades of transition. Further development was now only possible if one part of mankind should educate itself more highly at the cost of another part. First of all, the absolutely mindless had to be sacrificed. An intermingling with them for the purpose of propagation would only have dragged the more advanced down to their level. And so all who had received the mind principle were singled out from among them. Therefore they fell more and more to the level of animality. Thus, side by side with mankind, animals resembling man evolved themselves further.

Man left, as it were, a portion of his brothers behind him on the path, so that he might himself mount higher. This process was, however, by no means at an end here. Those men also of dull mentality, who stood rather higher, could only advance further by being drawn into association with higher beings and by separating themselves from the less mentally gifted. Only by these means could they develop bodies afterwards suited for the reception of the entire human intelligence. Not until after the lapse of a certain time had physical evolution advanced so far that, in this direction, a sort of pause set in, during which all lying beyond a fixed limit belonged to the human domain. The conditions of life on the earth had meantime so changed that a further rejection would have resulted in the production, not of animal-like beings, but of such as were not even fit to live. But what was thrust down into a state of animality has either died out or lives on in the various higher animals. In such therefore we must recognize creatures which had to remain behind, at an earlier stage of human development. Only they have not retained the same form which they had at the time of their separation, but have degenerated from a higher to a lower type. Thus monkeys are retrograde human beings of a bygone age. Just as man was at one time less perfect than he is to-day, so were these at one time more perfect than at present. And that which remained within the domain of man has undergone a like process, within its own limits. In many a savage tribe we may see the degraded descendants of human forms which were at one time more exalted. These have not sunk to the level of the brute, but only to that of the savage.

That which in man is eternal is the mind. It has been shown at what period the mind entered the body. Before that time the mind belonged to other regions. It could not unite itself with the body till the latter had attained a certain stage of development. Only when there is a perfect comprehension of the way in which this union took place can the meaning of birth and death be understood, or the character of the everlasting mind become known.