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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Atlantis and Lemuria
GA 11

VIII. Man's First Ancestors

The observations of the Âkâshic Record, which will be described in the following pages, date from a period immediately preceding the incidents related in the previous chapter. In view of the materialistic tendency of thought at the present day, the risk attending the publication of the following facts is even greater than that incurred by the descriptions given in the preceding chapters. One is so liable in these days, when dealing with matters of this kind, to be dubbed fantastic, or accused of groundless speculation, that nothing but the conviction that the information we offer with regard to spiritual experience is true and accurate could induce us to publish these statements, knowing, as we do only too well, that any one who is versed in the teachings of Physical Science, as accepted by the present generation, will be unable even to approach the matter in a serious attitude of mind. Nothing is herein stated, but what has been carefully tested according to the methods employed by Spiritual Science; and all we ask of the ordinary scientist is that he shall accord to the student of the Higher Science the same tolerance as the latter shows to the mode of thought of Physical Science. (See my Welt- und Lebensanschauungen im Neunzehnten Jahrhundert, where I think I have shown my appreciation of the views held by materialistic Science.)

Nevertheless, for the benefit of any who may be sympathetically inclined towards the teachings of the Higher Science, I would add a further special remark with reference to the present expositions: we shall here touch upon matters of very great significance, pertaining to an age now long past, matters which, portrayed by the Records of Âkâsha, it is by no means an easy task to decipher. The writer, indeed, makes no claim on blind faith; he merely sets forth the results of investigations on which the utmost care has been bestowed, and any correction, if based on a practical knowledge of such matters, would be welcomed. The signs of the times are such as to impress him with a sense of duty, nay, urgency, in making known these events in the evolution of mankind. Moreover, we shall first have to sketch briefly an extensive period of existence, in order to gain at the outset a good general idea. Many things, therefore, which are now merely indicated, will receive a more detailed exposition in later chapters.

It is, however, difficult to translate the inscriptions of the Âkâshic Records into everyday language. It were easier to decipher the occult language of symbolical signs used in occult schools, but this is not yet permitted in our time. The reader is therefore begged to give a hearing to much that may seem obscure and hard to understand, to make a valiant endeavour to grasp their meaning, as the author, on his part, has striven to devise a mode of interpretation capable of being understood by all. The trouble expended in mastering many a difficult passage will be rewarded by the insight gained into the profound mysteries, the momentous problems of humanity herein revealed. These Âkâshic Records—which, for the occult investigator, are as much an undeniable reality as mountains and rivers are for the physical eye—constitute for man the basis of a true knowledge of self. An error of perception is, of course, as possible for the one as for the other.

It must be remembered that the present chapter relates only to the evolution of man. As a matter of course, the other kingdoms of Nature, the mineral, the plant, and the animal, are evolving side by side with humanity, and these other evolutions will be dealt with in future chapters. In these we shall discuss certain other subjects destined to illumine and to render more comprehensible the details given concerning man's evolution. On the other hand, we shall not be able to study the evolution of the other terrestrial kingdoms from the occult standpoint until the gradual development of man has been shown.

When we retrace still further the earth's evolutionary history—further back even than we have done in the foregoing pages—we find our celestial globe composed of ever finer conditions of matter. The matter which later became solid was, at a previous stage, liquid; before that, gaseous and of the nature of vapour; while at a still remoter period we find it in its finest form, that is to say, as ether. The decrease of temperature, however, caused the gradual solidification of matter.

In our present studies we shall go back to the time when our earthly dwelling-place was composed of matter in its finest etheric state. In that epoch of the earth's evolution man began his earthly career. In earlier times he had lived in other worlds, which will be the subject of study elsewhere. [See An Outline Of Occult Science, by Rudolf Steiner, Ph.D.] We will here only say a word or two about the existence which immediately preceded his earth-life. It was what we should call an astral or spiritual world, peopled with beings who had no outer, that is to say, no physical, corporeal existence. Neither had man. He had by that time perfected the picture-consciousness, or dream-consciousness, which was described in a foregoing chapter. He possessed feelings and desires, but all confined in a soul-body: a human being at that stage would only have been visible to clairvoyant sight.

It is true that the more highly evolved human beings of that period possessed such sight, though it was of a rather vague and dreamy description; it was not self-conscious clairvoyance. These astral beings are, in a certain sense, man's ancestors; for what to-day we call “Man” contains an indwelling, self-conscious Spirit. This Spirit became united to the being which descended from that ancestor about the middle of the Lemurian phase of civilisation. (This union of the Soul-Ancestor with the Physical-Ancestor has already been mentioned in earlier chapters. The subject will be taken up again, and treated more explicitly, after we have followed the evolution of man's ancestors up to that point.)

The astral or Soul-Ancestors of man were transplanted to the subtle matter of the etheric world. They absorbed this subtle matter into themselves—roughly putting it—something after the manner of a sponge. Thus, by permeating themselves with etheric matter their etheric bodies were formed. They were elongated, and elliptic in form; yet subtle differentiations of matter, tendencies to form limbs and other organs to be developed at a later period, were even then perceptible. The whole process perceptible in the mass of etheric matter was, however, purely physico-chemical, though regulated and controlled by the soul.

When one of these ovoids of matter had reached a certain size, it split into two, forming two new masses each resembling the one which gave it birth, and reproducing the same activities which were at work in the parent form. Every one of these new forms possessed a soul similar to that of the mother-being. The reason of this was that not only a definite number of human souls incarnated on the physical plane, but there was what we might call a Soul-Tree (or Group Soul), which was able, as it were, to give off innumerable individual souls, sprung from its common root. Just as a plant springs up again and again from numberless seeds, so did the soul-life reincarnate in the countless offshoots which were created as the result of these continual cleavings. (Of course, there existed from the beginning a very limited number of soul species, but within these species, evolution proceeded in the manner described, every soul species putting forth innumerable scions.)

With incarnation in physical matter a most important change came over the souls themselves. As long as the souls remained unconnected with the material world, no outward material occurrence could affect them. All influences affecting them were purely psychic, or clairvoyant. Thus in their life they shared the astral influences of their surroundings, and it was in this way that they took part in, or experienced, everything that existed at that time. The impressions made by stones, plants, and animals, then also existing in a purely astral (Soul) form, were felt as inner experiences of the soul. On entering the plane of our earth, something quite new was added. Outer material events brought influences to bear upon the soul, which had thus robed itself in a garment of etheric matter. At first these influences consisted of motions in the outer material world which caused corresponding activity in the etheric body. In the same way as the vibrations of the air now affect us in the form of sound, so were those etheric beings affected by the vibrations of the etheric matter surrounding them. Such a being was, in fact, a single organ of hearing. This sense was the first to be developed; but from this we see that the separated organ of hearing was formed at a later period.

With the increasing solidification of physical matter, the soul-nature gradually lost control over its formation. The bodies already formed could only reproduce bodies after their own image. A change now occurs in the manner of generation, that is to say, the offspring of the mother-being appears considerably smaller, only growing gradually to the size of the parent. Organs of generation now begin to appear, whereas hitherto they had not existed. Henceforward it is no mere physico-chemical process which takes place within the form. Such a process is now no longer sufficient for the purpose of generation: for the outer matter, growing denser and denser, is no longer capable of being directly influenced by the soul. A special portion within the form is therefore set apart for this function, being withdrawn from the immediate influence of the outside material world. Only the body, exclusive of the specialised part, is still exposed to these influences; and it remains in the condition which was formerly that of the whole body. In the specialised part the psychic nature continues to work, and the soul becomes at this point the vehicle of the life-principle (called in Theosophical literature “Prâna”).

We now find the physical human ancestor in possession of two principles: one being the physical body, which is subject to the chemical and physical laws of the world surrounding it; and the second, the sum total of the organs directly controlled by the individual life-principle. In this manner a part of the activity of the soul has been liberated. No longer retaining power over the physical sheath, the soul turns this part of its activity inwards, transforming part of the body into special organs; and so begins an inner life of the body. It no longer merely participates in the vibrations from without, but begins to feel them inwardly as individual experiences. Here sensation begins. At first, the sensation somewhat resembles the sense of touch: the subject feels the movements of the outer world, the pressure caused by substances, and so on; also a sensation of heat and cold began now to be developed.

At this point man has reached an important stage in his evolution. The direct influence of the soul has been withdrawn from the physical body, the latter being entirely surrendered to the physical and chemical activities of the material world. The moment the soul, at work in the other principles, relaxes its hold over the body, the latter dissolves. This is the beginning of what we call “death.” We cannot speak of death in reference to previous states. In the simple case of separation, the life of the mother-form is continued in the offspring, for in the latter are at work all the transformed soul-forces which hitherto had sought expression in the one parent-form: after the separation, nothing remains that is soulless.

A change now takes place: as soon as the soul ceases to retain its power over the physical body, the latter is subject to the chemical and physical laws of the outer world, that is to say, it decays. The field of activity for the soul-powers is limited to generation and the developed inner life; for through this generative power, descendants are brought forth, which are in their turn endowed with a surplus of organ-forming power. In this surplus the soul always returns to life again. As the whole body was formerly filled with psychic activity at the separation, so were now the organs of reproduction and of sensation. We must recognise in this nothing less than a Rebirth of the soul-life in the new growing organism.

Theosophical literature describes these two evolutionary stages of man as the first two Root-Races of our earth. The first is called the Polar Race, the second the Hyperborean Race.

We must bear in mind that the field of sensation possessed by these human forefathers was of a general character and as yet quite vague and indefinite. So far, only two of the kinds of sensation we now possess were differentiated: the sense of hearing and that of touch. By reason of the changes, however, which the body was undergoing, as well as its physical environment, the whole human form was no longer capable of acting, so to speak, as “all ear.” Henceforward a specialised part of the body retained the power of responding to the delicate vibrations, and supplied the material from which was gradually developed the organ of hearing we now possess, whilst the rest of the body remained almost entirely an organ of touch.

Obviously, the whole process of the evolution of man has hitherto been connected with the alteration in the degree of warmth of our earth; it was, in fact, due to the heat in his surroundings that man evolved to the stage we have just described. The heat from without, however, had now reached a point at which further progress in the formation of the human body was no longer possible. Thus, with the cooling off of the earth, a corresponding reaction set in within the form itself, and man became the generator of his own supply of heat, whereas hitherto his temperature had been that of his surroundings. Organs now appear in him, enabling him to generate for himself the degree of heat necessary for his life. Up till now, currents of substances had circulated within him, dependent on the environment for the necessary heat; but now he could generate his own heat, for these substances and the fluids of the body turned into warm blood. Thus he had attained a far greater degree of self-dependence as a physical being than ever before, and his whole inner life was intensified. Sensation still depended entirely upon the effects of the outer world. The filling of the body with its own warmth gave it an independent physical inner life. The soul had now a field of activity within the body, where it could unfold an existence which would no longer be a mere sharing in the life of the outer world.

By this proceeding, the astral, or soul life, was drawn into the sphere of physical matter. Hitherto desires, longings and passions, joy and sorrow of soul, could only arise through psychic influences; and attraction and aversion were awakened, passions excited, and so on, by that which proceeded from one soul to another. No other external physical object could have produced such effects. Now, for the first time, the possibility arose that such outer objects had a significance for the soul. For the quickening of the inner life which followed the power of generating its own heat caused it to experience the sensation of pleasure, while the disturbance of this inner life caused it discomfort; an outer object qualified to maintain bodily comfort could become an object of desire, or longing. The astral, or desire body—known as “Kâma” in Theosophical literature,—was united with terrestrial man, and the objects of the senses became objects capable of being desired; man was thus bound through his desire body to earthly existence.

The foregoing fact coincides with a great cosmic event, with which it is causally connected. Till now there had been no material separation between sun, earth, and moon: these three affected man as a single body. At this point separation occurs: the finer matter, including all that which had hitherto conferred on the soul the power of directly giving life, was separated off as sun; the grossest matter went forth as moon; while the earth, with its materiality, occupied a position between the two. Of course, the separation did not occur suddenly; for the whole process was gradually taking place while man was advancing from the stage of generation by cleavage to that just described. The advance in man's evolution was, indeed, accomplished just through the cosmic happenings mentioned. First, the sun withdrew its substance from the common globe. The soul was thereby deprived of the possibility of directly vivifying the earth substance left behind. Then the moon began to take form, in this way bringing about a condition of the earth favourable to the growth of the capacity for sensation just as we have already described.

In conjunction with this occurrence, a new sense was developed. The conditions of warmth of the earth became such that the bodies gradually took on a definite outline, dividing the transparent matter from the opaque. The sun, which had withdrawn from the earth-body, now assumed its task as light-giver, and awoke in the human body the sense of sight. It was not at first what we know as sight to-day. Light and darkness were perceptible to man as vague sensations. For instance, he was aware that under certain conditions light gave him a sense of comfort and well-being, quickening the life in his body; therefore he sought it and strove towards it.

Meanwhile the actual soul-life continued to run its course in the form of dreamlike pictures. Colour-pictures came and went in this life, without having any particular connection with the things of the outer world, and these colour-pictures were still attributed by man to soul activities. Light colour-pictures appeared to him when his astral experiences were pleasant; sombre pictures when he was affected by disagreeable astral influences. That which was effected as the result of self-generated heat we have called in the foregoing the “inner life.” Nevertheless, we see that it was not an inner life in the sense of later human development. All things advance step by step, and so does the evolution of the inner life. In the sense in which it has been spoken of in a former chapter, this true inner life only begins when the fructification by the mind takes place, when man begins to think about these outer influences. All that has been described here does but show how man climbed upward to the state depicted in the preceding chapter. And we really live over again the times there described when we picture to ourselves the following. More and more the soul learns to relate to the outer bodily existence that which it formerly lived through in itself and which it only attributed to soul influences.

The same thing now happened with regard to the colour-pictures. Just as before the impression of a sympathetic psychic influence was connected in the individual soul with a bright colour-picture, so did it now become a brilliant light-impression from outside. The soul began to perceive in colours the objects surrounding it. This was in conjunction with the development of new organs of sight. At its previous stages the body had one eye, which does not exist to-day, by means of which it vaguely sensed the light and the darkness. (The legend of the Cyclops with one eye is a reminiscence of this state.)

The two eyes developed when the soul began to associate the external light-impressions more intimately with its own life, and thus was lost the capacity of perception of the surrounding astral world. The soul became more and more a mirror of the outer world, the latter being reproduced within it as an image; and simultaneously with this the separation of the sexes appeared. On the one hand, the human body became capable of fecundation only by another human being, while on the other hand there developed in the body “soul-organs” (the nervous system), by which the sense-impressions of the outer world were reflected in the soul, thereby preparing the way for the mind, or thinking principle, in the human body.