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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Atlantis and Lemuria
GA 11

IX. The First, or Polar, Race

We will now trace the Âkâshic Records back to the primeval past, when our earth, as it is now, began to exist. By earth we mean that condition of our planet by reason of which it is the bearer of minerals, plants, animals, and men, in their present form; for this state was preceded by others in which the above-named kingdoms of Nature existed under essentially different forms.

The earth, as we know it, had undergone many transformations before it could become the bearer of our present world of minerals, plants, animals, and human beings. Minerals also existed in those earlier conditions, but they had quite a different appearance from the minerals of our day. These past conditions will be dealt with later, but for the time being we shall merely refer to the way in which the condition immediately preceding the present was transformed into the latter.

We may form a faint idea of such a transformation by comparison with the passage of the plant nature through the germinal state. Imagine a plant with its roots, stem, leaves, blossoms, and fruit: it draws matter from its surroundings and expels it again. But everything belonging to it of the nature of substance, form, and growth disappears—all but the tiny germ; through it the life quickens, to spring up again next year in a similar form. In the same way all that existed on our earth in its previous state disappeared, but only to arise again in its present form. That which might be called mineral, plant, animal, in the former condition, has passed away, as the roots, stem, and different parts of the plant have passed away; and in one case as in the other, the germ-state has remained out of which the old form is built up anew, for within the germ lie concealed the forces which cause the new form to proceed from it.

In the period which we are just about to describe, we have to deal, therefore, with a kind of earth-germ, containing within it the forces which gave rise to the earth of to-day, forces which were acquired by virtue of its former conditions. We must not imagine, however, that this earth-seed consisted of dense matter like the plant-seed: it was rather of a psychic nature, and composed of that fine, vibrating, plastic matter which is called “astral” in Theosophical literature.

This astral germ of the earth at first contained the embryonic human being, the beginnings of the future human souls. Everything which existed in previous states as minerals, plants, and animals, had been absorbed by these human germs—merged in them. So, before man trod the physical earth, he was a soul—an astral being,—and as such he finds himself on the physical earth, which then consisted of the finest matter—called in Theosophical literature the finest etheric matter.

The origin of this etheric earth will be explained in another chapter. The astral human beings drew this ether round them, imprinting on it, as it were, their own nature, so that it became a copy of the astral human being. Thus, at the first stage, we have to deal with an etheric earth, which is really only composed of this etheric humanity, and is nothing but a conglomerate of it. The astral body, or soul of man, is actually, for the most part, outside the etheric body and organizes it from without. To the occult investigator the earth appears somewhat as follows: it is a sphere composed in its turn of countless tiny etheric spheres—etheric humanity—and surrounded by an astral covering, as the present earth is surrounded by a covering of air. In this astral envelope (atmosphere) astral humanity lives, and from there it works on its etheric images. The astral human souls create organs in their etheric images, in whom they effect a human etheric existence. Within the whole earth there is only one condition of matter, and that is the subtle vital ether. This primeval humanity is called in Theosophical books the Polar, or First, Root-Race.

The further evolution of the earth now consists in the development of the one condition of matter into two; a denser matter separates off, leaving a finer substance behind. The denser substance is similar to our air, while the finer substance resembles that which effects the formation of chemical elements from their previously undifferentiated substance. In addition to these, a remnant of the earlier matter—the vitalised ether—continued to exist. Only a part of the latter was incorporated with the two conditions of matter just described.

We find, then, at this time three kinds of matter in the physical earth. While formerly the activities of the astral human beings were confined to one substance in the earth-shell, they now had to work upon three, their work being carried on in the following manner. That part which had become gaseous at first offered resistance to the work of the astral beings; it would not assimilate all the latent possibilities contained in the perfect astral beings; consequently, the astral humanity is forced to divide into two groups. One group is that which elaborates the gaseous matter, and creates in it its own image; the other group is able to do more: it can work upon the two other kinds of matter; it can create an image of itself composed both of the vitalised ether and the other kind of ether, thus giving rise to the chemical elements. In the present work we shall call this kind of ether “chemical ether.”

But this second group of astral beings has only acquired this higher faculty by throwing off a part—the first group—of the astral essence, and condemning it to perform lower work. Had it retained in itself those forces which accomplished the meaner task, it could not have risen higher itself. Here we have an event arising from the fact that something higher procures its own advancement at the cost of another, which it severs from itself.

This is the picture which now presents itself within the physical earth: two kinds of beings exist. Firstly, those having a gaseous body, on which astral beings belonging to it work from outside. These beings are of the nature of animals, and form a first animal kingdom on the earth. Were we to describe the forms of these animals, the man of to-day would think them rather strange. Their form—we must bear in mind that it consisted only of gaseous substance—resembles none of the animal forms existing now; they have, perhaps, a distant resemblance to the shells of certain snails or shell-fish of the present day.

Side by side with these animal forms, man's physical development progresses. Astral humanity, now risen a step higher, creates a physical image of itself consisting of two kinds of matter, of vital ether and of chemical ether. Thus we have before us a human being consisting of an astral body, who is working upon an etheric body, which is again composed of two kinds of ether, vital and chemical ether.

By means of the life-ether this physical image of man has the power of reproduction, of bringing forth beings like itself. By means of the chemical ether it develops certain forces, similar to the chemical forces known to us at the present day as attraction and repulsion. Thereby this human image has the power of attracting certain substances in its surroundings and of uniting them with itself—afterwards to throw them out again by the power of repulsion. Such matter can, of course, only be drawn from the animal kingdom described above, and from the human kingdom. Here we discover the origin of nutrition. These first human images were thus animal and man-eaters. There still existed simultaneously with these the descendants of the former, merely life-ether beings, but they became stunted, having to adapt themselves to the new terrestrial conditions. From these are formed at a later period, after many transformations undergone by them, the unicellular creatures, as also the cells which afterwards went to the formation of the more complicated beings.

The next step forward is this: the gaseous matter divides in two, the denser part becoming watery and the other remaining gaseous. But the chemical ether also divides into two conditions of matter; the one becomes denser, and forms what we shall here call light-ether; it confers on the beings in whom it is contained the gift of becoming luminous. But a part of the chemical ether retains its original form. We have henceforth to deal with a physical earth composed of the following kinds of matter: water, air, light-ether, chemical ether, and life-ether. Now, to enable the astral beings to influence these kinds of matter again, another occurrence takes place, involving the progress of something higher at the expense of something lower thrown off from it. This process gives rise to physical beings of the character we shall now describe.

Firstly, there were those whose physical body was made up of water and air, who are now worked upon by coarse astral beings belonging to those who had been thrown out. So there arises a new group of animals composed of denser matter than the former ones. Secondly, another new group of physical beings came into existence, possessing a body which may consist of air and light-ether mixed with water. These are plant-like beings, but differing greatly in form from the plants of the present time. Only in the third new group do we find the man of that time represented. His physical body is composed of three kinds of ether, light-ether, chemical ether, and life-ether. When we consider that descendants of the old groups still continue to exist, we can gauge the multiplicity of living beings which already existed when our earth was at that stage of development.

A momentous cosmic event here occurs. The sun withdraws, and simultaneously certain forces leave the earth altogether. These forces are composed of a part of that which was present on the earth hitherto in the form of life-, chemical-, and light-ether. Thus these forces were withdrawn, as it were, from the earth as it had existed up to the present. Thereby a radical change took place in all the groups of terrestrial beings who had hitherto contained these forces within themselves. They underwent transformation. The first to be so transformed were what we called above the plant beings, who were deprived of the forces they had possessed by means of the light-ether, so that they could now only develop as living beings when acted upon from without by the light forces taken from them, and in this way plants came under the influence of sunlight.

Something of a similar nature happened to the human bodies as well. Their light-ether had to co-operate henceforth with the light-ether of the sun, in order to be capable of life. But not only those beings from whom the light-ether had been directly withdrawn were affected; others were also influenced; for everything in the world works together. The animal forms, too, which did not themselves contain light-ether had once been irradiated by their fellow-beings on the earth, and developed under the influence of the light received from them; and they now came also indirectly under the influence of the sun from without.

The human body, however, in particular, developed organs which are susceptible to the sunlight—the first rudiments of the human eye.

The result of the sun's separation was a further condensation of the matter of the earth. Solid matter began to develop from the liquid; in like manner the light-ether differentiates into a second kind of light-ether and an ether which enables bodies to develop warmth. The earth thus becomes a being which generates heat within itself. All its inhabitants were brought under the influence of heat. Again, in the astral world a similar process to the former one must occur: certain beings progressed at the expense of others. A certain number of beings, suited to work upon the gross solid matter, were separated off, and this was the origin of the firm skeleton of the earth, the mineral kingdom.

At first the higher kingdoms of Nature did not all exercise their influence on this solid, mineral, bony mass, so that we find on the earth a mineral kingdom which is hard and a vegetable kingdom in which the densest matter is water and air. For in this kingdom the gaseous body itself had been densified to a water-body by the events described; and, besides these, there were animals of the most multifarious forms, some with water- and some with air-bodies. The human body itself had undergone a process of densification. Its firmest corporeality had solidified to the density of water. The heat-ether having arisen, this water-body of man's was pervaded by it, imparting to it a kind of matter which might, perhaps, be described as of the nature of gas. This condition of matter of the human body is described in works on Occult Science as that of “firemist.” In this body of firemist man was incorporated.