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Universe, Earth and Man
GA 105

Lecture II

Ancient Wisdom and the new Apocalyptic Wisdom. Temple sleep. Isis and the Madonna. Past stages of Evolution. The bestowing of the Ego. Future Powers.

5 Aug 1908, Stuttgart

We shall enter best into our subject if in the first place we try to form a clear conception of the two extremes which have to be considered when Universe and Man are brought into relationship with each other. These two extremes are the spirit-soul and the psycho-material. We will endeavour to discuss these, starting with a phenomenon which, to the man of the present day, is more or less of a riddle, but which is found in the ancient Egyptian conception of the world and life. I mean what is called “temple-sleep.”

The unique fact lying at the foundation of temple-sleep is that among the Egyptian priests, and in ancient civilizations in general, wisdom was held to be very closely bound up with the art of healing and with health.

The man of today has but a dim conception of those ancient ideas regarding the inner relationships between wisdom and health, between science and the art of healing; and it will be the task of the Anthroposophical movement to direct humanity once more to that conception of the spiritual through which wisdom and the art of healing will be brought again into close connection. This recalls what was said in the last lecture. It recalls that ancient figure of which we were reminded when we looked at the picture of the Madonna and child, as painted by Raphael—it reminds us of Isis with the child Horus, the Goddess on whose temple was inscribed the words: “I AM, who was, who is, who will be; my veil no mortal can raise.”

This Goddess was mysteriously connected with the art of healing; she was regarded as the teacher of the Egyptian priesthood in this respect. There is a remarkable statement taking us back to the very earliest ages of antiquity that shows how Isis was particularly interested in the health of mankind at the time when she was placed among mortals.

This points to a very mysterious fact.

We must now sketch in a few words, and bring before your souls, the nature of temple-sleep, which was one of the remedies employed by the priests of Egypt. Anyone who had suffered loss of health in any way in those days was not treated as a rule with external remedies; there were only a few of these, and they were seldom used. Sufferers were in most cases taken to the temple and there put into a kind of sleep. It was not an ordinary sleep, but a kind of somnambulistic sleep which was so intensified that the patient became capable of having not chaotic dreams merely but of seeing orderly visions. During this sleep the patient perceived etheric forms in the spiritual world, and the wise priests understood the art of influencing these etheric pictures which passed before the sleeper; they could control and guide them.

Let us suppose that an invalid was put into a temple-sleep. The priest skilled in medicine was at his side when he fell into this somnambulistic sleep, the invalid then entered a world of etheric forms, and the priest, because of the power he possessed through his initiation (and which was only possible in those ancient times when conditions of existence were such as no longer or very seldom exist today), was able to control the entire sleep. He formed and fashioned the etheric visions and beings in such a way that there actually appeared before the sleeper, as if by magic, those forms which at one time the ancient Atlanteans had looked on as their Gods. These Divine forms—concerning which the various peoples still possessed a remembrance, in the German and Norse, and the Greek mythologies—were now placed before the soul of the person who was in the temple-sleep. He saw in particular certain figures which were connected with the healing principle.

Had the patient remained conscious, as in the waking consciousness of today, it would not have been possible for such forces to act upon him; this was only possible in somnambulistic sleep. The wise priest guided this dream-life in such a way that powerful forces were liberated during the etheric visions, and these restored to order and harmony the forces of the body which had fallen into disorder and discord. This was only possible when the self-consciousness of the patient had been suppressed. Temple sleep had therefore a very real significance, and we can see how the healing art of the priests was connected with knowledge only accessible to man through initiation. The connection lies clearly before us. It was the priests who, through the revival of the ancient vision of higher worlds, possessed in their wisdom the forces which came from these worlds, whereby spirit could work upon spirit. They acquired the capacity of allowing spirit to work upon spirit, and through this wisdom was brought into inner connection with health.

In the uplifting of the self to what was spiritual there was, in ancient times, a healing element, and it would be well if man were to learn to understand this again, for he would then understand the great mission of the Anthroposophical movement, which is to lead man up to the spiritual world, so that he may again enter those worlds from which he has descended. It is true that in future people will not be put into a somnambulistic condition; self-consciousness will be fully maintained, all the same, strong spiritual forces will become active in man, and the possession of wisdom and insight into higher worlds will then be capable of acting on human nature to harmonize and heal. Today this connection between spirituality and the healing art is hidden, those who are not initiated into the deeper wisdom of the Mysteries cannot discern the connection, they cannot even observe the more subtle facts that confront them. Those who look more deeply know upon what profound inner conditions a case of healing may depend. Let us suppose for example that a certain illness befalls a person and that it has an inner cause, not a fractured thigh-bone or a disordered stomach, for these are external causes.

Anyone wishing to go deeply into this will very soon find that in the case of a person who occupies himself much with mathematical ideas conditions of health are very different to the case of another who does not occupy himself with such things. This fact indicates the remarkable connection between the mental life of a person and the state of his external health. It is not, of course, as if mathematical thinking healed the man. Let us look at this more closely: that different conditions of healing are necessary in the case of one applying himself to mathematics and one who does not. Suppose two people have exactly the same illness—in reality this never happens, but we may suppose it. One of them does not care to know anything about mathematical ideas; the other is intensely interested in them. It might happen that it was quite impossible to cure the non-mathematical person whereas it might be possible to heal the other with suitable remedies. What I have stated is an actual fact.

Take another example. We have two people before us; one is an Atheist in the worst sense, the other a deeply religious man. Again it might happen that if both have the same disease and the same remedy is used that the religious man can be cured and the other not. These are things which to modern thinking—at least to the greater part of humanity—will seem absurd; however, they are not so. How is this? It depends on the fact that an entirely different influence is exercised upon human nature by so-called “sense free” ideas, and by those filled with sense perception. Think for a moment of the difference between a man who likes mathematics and one who does not. The latter says: “I ought to think about these things! but I only want to think of things which I can perceive with my senses!” Nevertheless, it is of great use to the inner being of man to dwell on conceptions of that which cannot be seen. Hence it is useful to have religious conceptions, for these also relate to things which cannot be grasped with the hands, nor have any connection with outer, material things—in a word with things which are sense-free. These are matters which one day, when man will look up more to that which is spiritual, will have a great influence on educational principles.

For example, let us take the simple conception 3 x 3=9. Children form such a conception best when they do it without the help of anything material. It is not good when they put 3 x 3 beans next each other for too long, for then they do not rise at all above the sense conception; but if you accustom children, to begin with, not for too long, to count on their fingers, and then follow it with pure mathematical thinking, such thought has a curative, harmonizing effect upon the children. How little people of the present day understand such things can be seen from the fact that in their system of instruction the exact opposite occurs. Has not the abacus been introduced into our schools whereby addition, subtraction, etc., are made clear to sense-eyes by means of different coloured balls? In this way that which ought to be comprehended purely in the mind is said “to be made clear” to the senses. It may be convenient, but those who consider this to be educational know nothing of that deeper curative education which is rooted in the power of the spirit. A man who from childhood has been accustomed to live with sense conceptions will not, because his nerve system has lived under sickly conditions, be able to be cured as easily as one who from his youth has been accustomed to sense-free ideas. The more a person is accustomed to think apart from objects the easier it is to cure him.

In ancient times when a person was ill it was customary to place before him all kinds of symbolic figures, triangles, and combinations of numbers. The object, besides the other value these things possessed, was to uplift him from the mere outward vision of things. If I place a triangle before me and merely look at it, that has no particular value but if on the other hand I see it as the symbol of the higher triad of man it becomes a healing conception of the mind.

Observe how the conceptions of Spiritual Science lead us to the vision of things Spiritual. We are led from what takes place on earth to what has taken place on the ancient Sun, Moon, and Saturn. With physical eyes we cannot see the events of those times, nor with sensely hands can we reach up to the ancient Moon or ancient Sun; but without the aid of the external crutches of our senses we can uplift ourselves to the things which existed once upon a time; we can acquire conceptions which have an equalizing and harmonizing effect upon our whole life and likewise upon our body.

Spiritual Science will again prove to be a great, a universal remedy, as it was formerly in the hands of the Egyptian priests; at that time, however, it necessitated the suppression of the ego, as in temple-sleep. The spiritual conception of the world is a curative conception.

Many people will say in answer to this assertion: Are all Anthroposophists healthy people? Are there no invalids among them?

We must understand that fundamentally the individual can do very little for his health and his sickness. A large proportion of the causes of disease lies outside the individual personality. A person may have the healthiest ideas, which, if he were to live under quite healthy conditions, would result in his never being ill from internal causes; but there are other causes lying outside the power of the individual of today, the secret causes of heredity for example, the influences passing from one human being to another, the influences of unnatural environment, etc. All these influences, which, in a hidden way, are external causes of disease, can only be done away with gradually by a healthy Anthroposophical method of thought. Although we may observe that a person who is inwardly most healthy may fall ill, even dangerously ill, we must not regard this as a sign that Spiritual Science will fail to act curatively upon humanity in the course of centuries—I say centuries, not thousands of years. There is a future before spiritually thinking men, in whom no inner cause of sickness will exist for those able to provide the inward and outward conditions of Spiritual wisdom. External causes there will always be, these can only be eradicated as a spiritually scientific art of healing gains more and more ground.

When we rightly understand the effect of that which is Spiritual we find that temple-sleep is not unintelligible to us. What was it that was conjured up before the sleeper in the temple in his etheric visions? It was the picture of the Atlantean Gods whom we once knew as etheric forms; among whom we once lived, when we were able to be conscious outside the physical body and could exercise etheric clairvoyance. If we go still farther back in human evolution, far beyond the Atlantean epoch, we reach a period in which man first became what he now is, when he first appeared as the individual personality he is today. This period is called the Lemurian epoch. The Atlantean continent, from which the people spread to Africa, Europe, and Asia, came to an end through mighty water catastrophes.

Lemuria, which was that portion of the earth upon which humanity dwelt before the Atlantean epoch, was destroyed through the forces of fire, by volcanic catastrophes. It was during the Lemurian epoch that man first gained consciousness of his ego. This was a mighty impulse in the evolution of man.

How was it that man attained to his “I” or ego consciousness?

It is very difficult for the materialist thought of the present day to imagine this ancient condition of humanity. Were you to imagine the man of that time as similar to the man of today, with flesh and blood, bones and muscles, your idea would be entirely wrong. At that time man possessed a far more impermanent, a far softer form; his body was comparatively fluidic. That which later became muscles and bones has only grown hard in the course of time. At that period also the propagation of humanity was entirely different. Man lived more in the surroundings of the earth—in the atmosphere, which at that time was not pure air as it is today, but was filled with all kinds of vapours. In this man lived as a true airy form, and the currents surrounding the earth passed in and out of him. Man's form was almost the same as some cloud we see today which continually changes its form, only the form of man at that time was firmer and more defined. There appeared then, also for the first time, what are now described as the sexes; at that period of evolution an ancient, non-sexual kind of propagation was replaced by a sexual one.

This took place, however, millions and millions of years ago.

Simultaneously with sexual reproduction came the embodiment of the earliest germ of the ego. Previous to this man was impelled to produce his like from himself through external influences which lay in the sphere around him. That was the form of reproduction at a time when man did not as yet possess an ego, when he still had a dim clairvoyant consciousness, when he rested “Entirely in the bosom of the Deity,” and could not say, “I am.” His perception was somewhat as follows: he was aware that when he did anything it made an impression upon his spiritual environment, and he felt his existence to be within this environment. He was not able to say: “I am here,” but “my environment lets me be here.” He lay within the bosom of the living earth, and the living forces of the earth streamed out and in of him. At that time there were no unhealthy forces; disease did not exist; there was no death such as we know it. It was only when, with sexual reproduction, man was endowed with his ego, that sickness and death entered. At that time the human being was not fertilized by his like but just as today he breathes, so he then absorbed substances from his environment, and in this environment the fertilizing forces were to be found; that which then entered into him fertilized him, and caused him to bring forth his kind.

These forces in man were healthy, and so was that which, as his kind, he produced.

The priests of ancient Egypt knew this, and they said: The further we guide man's vision back into previous conditions the more do we bring him into conditions in which there is no disease. The vision of the old Atlantean Gods acted curatively, and this was still more the case when the priests guided these visions so that the temple-sleeper had before him those primeval forms which were fertilized, not from their like, but from that which was in their environment. The invalid who lay in the temple-sleep beheld the form of her who was the mother of her kind without having received fertilization from her kind. Before him stood the generating woman, the woman with child, yet who is virgin; the Goddess who in the Lemurian epoch was the companion of man, and who has since disappeared from the sight of man. In ancient Egypt she was called Holy Isis.

Isis could only be seen by men in a normal way when death had not as yet appeared on earth. At that time men were, in normal consciousness the companions of such forms as floated around them, and they brought forth their kind virginally.

When Isis was no longer the visible companion of humanity, when she was withdrawn into the circle of the Gods, she continued to interest herself in the health of man from the Spiritual World so said the priests—and when a person was raised to the vision of those ancient forms in an abnormal way, as in temple-sleep, the pictured Isis still acted curatively on him. She is that principle in man which was present in him before he received his mortal covering. HER veil has no mortal raised, for she is the form which was there when death had not as yet come into the world. She is the ONE ROOTED IN THE ETERNAL; she is the great HEALING PRINCIPLE to which humanity will again attain, when it steeps itself anew in Spiritual Wisdom.

We see what has remained of this in the wonderful symbol of the Virgin Mother with the child; speaking from the standpoint of Spiritual Science we say with emphasis that we see it in many pictures of the Madonna. We assert these pictures have a curative effect; for, within the limits which have been discussed, a picture of the Madonna is a means of healing. When it is viewed and studied in such a way that it has an after effect upon the human soul, when this human soul can dream during sleep about the Madonna picture, it then possesses a healing power even today.

Let us now ask what were the fertilizing forces at a time when the human being was not fertilized by his own kind?

Think of our earth at that time as being a solid kernel surrounded by all kinds of viscous, seething, substances, mingled with vapour, and in this half-watery structure dwelt Lemurian humanity. The earth was shone upon by the sun, which could not then be perceived by human eyes, because our sense organs had not developed; the sun's influence, however, penetrated through the veils of mist and cloud, and with the power of the sun's rays the earth received also powers of fructification. The earth did not only receive the forces of warmth, but at the same time the forces which today live in the power of fructification. That which the human being absorbed streamed to the earth from invisible Spiritual Sun-beings. Such was the relationship between sun and earth. The power which acted at that time upon those sexless self-propagating human forms was perceived as a masculine power. This was poured out over the whole earth as a product of the sun. Such were the conditions during the early part of the Lemurian epoch.

Let us now go back still further, to a period in which the conditions were again quite different, to a primeval past when the sun, which is now separate, was bound up with our earth. At one time the earth and the sun formed a single body. All the finer and more etheric parts were still within this common body. We will consider this body at the time when the two were connected as somewhat resembling in shape a fancy biscuit, one part, a smaller globe (namely the earth-plus-moon) hanging as it were on to the other.

We must imagine the sun as a vast etheric body on which earth-plus-moon hung. The rays of force from the sun still mingled with the earth, they passed from the sun to the earth and back from earth to sun—for the two were in a certain way one body. We shall best understand the purpose of this development if we enquire: What would have happened if, without anything further taking place, the sun had turned entirely away from the earth after the separation, and had no longer sent its beams and currents to the earth? All life upon the earth would in this case have dried up and hardened. It was necessary to the earth that the fertilizing influences from the sun should remain. We have to regard this interaction between sun and earth as the interaction between two principles: one leading to destruction, the other giving life. This was also the case later; invigorating life flowed continually from the sun to the earth.

We have now briefly recapitulated the various stages in the evolution of our earth. First there was a primeval past when the earth was still within the sun-body; then a second stage in which the earth was more loosely connected with the sun; then a third, when the two bodies were completely separated from each other. It was only in this third epoch that the ego really entered into man and at this stage sexual reproduction began. Then followed the fourth epoch, the Atlantean, and lastly the post-Atlantean epoch, that in which we are now living. To those who look more deeply into the structure of the world, all that happens visibly, all that is external, takes place under the influence of Spiritual Beings. At one time the sun and the earth were one. (We will go into the Moon development later.) This common body was then permeated with harmoniously working Divine Spiritual Beings. Such lofty beings were necessary to govern the forces that at that time were still undifferentiated.

Now think of development as having progressed: the sun withdrew. What took place then? With the sun went forth the highest beings and the finest substances; henceforward they worked upon the earth from outside. Beings who represented truly living ever-accelerating life, dwelt upon the sun; and on the earth the beings who, if they had been left to themselves, would have suffered stiffening, darkness, destruction. At this second stage of evolution light and darkness were both at work.

At the third stage of evolution the earth-man is endowed with his ego, and the time begins when his self-conscious “I” dwells within him. He becomes aware of this ego by its opposite, and he gradually passes into one condition in which he has a clear consciousness, and into another in which he has a dim consciousness; the first comes to him from the sun, and the other preferably from the earth. The ego, the eternal germ, has to alternate between two forms, one an eternal form, and the other a form which can be born and can die. Those beings, who always possess what man has only occasionally, have forsaken their earth bodies. First that being who brings about fertilization, who lives principally on the sun, went forth from the moon-earth, then the being who makes the human form static or more permanent goes forth with the moon.

Sun and moon gradually separated from the earth. With the sun went forth the beings who, had they remained united with it, would have brought a too precipitate life to earth; and with the moon all those forces withdrew which would have brought about a hardening and stiffening; everything which would have tended to make form permanent. The earth remained in the midst, as it were between the two. Man on earth alternates between these two, he is influenced on the one hand by the sun, and on the other by the forces of the moon. The beings who were previously man's companions had now withdrawn, some to the sun and some to the moon.

In the fourth epoch of the earth's evolution, those companions of man were met with who had condensed so far as to an etheric body, and they were in certain respects subject to human weaknesses. These were the etheric Gods with whom men lived during the Atlantean period. In post-Atlantean times he lost his connection with these etheric Gods, he entered entirely into the physical world and the door leading to spiritual worlds was shut.

There remained to man, however, from these ancient times something that was like a remembrance of the spiritual worlds, and, in accordance with the law of repetition everything he had passed through in life at one time woke up within him later as knowledge.

Man had lived through numerous epochs in which he was variously related to the Gods. He now passed through the same stages again, but with knowledge.

After the great Atlantean flood, in the first holy ancient Indian civilization, man passed once again in soul and spirit through that epoch when earth and sun were united. The very exalted Deity who guided and adjusted everything that man experienced in the first post-Atlantean civilization was called by a name which remained, as a tradition, into later times. Man called this Deity Brahman, the All-One.

This Deity actually dwelt among men at one time—in the first epoch of the evolution of our earth man was the companion of Brahman, who was reverenced in the ancient Indian civilization, and was known to man when in a higher state of abstraction.

Then followed the Persian civilization during which mankind experienced consciously the second epoch, when the sun with its all-invigorating forces separated itself from the forces of darkness. Therefore man perceived a duality in the Godhead in the second age of civilization, and this duality is represented as the opposition of Ormuzd, the good Deity, and Ahriman, the destroying Deity. This was nothing but a repetition—but in knowledge—of that which man had passed through in fact in earlier ages.

We then come to the memory of the epoch when the sun and moon went forth from the previously united celestial body, the sun with its fertilising forces and the moon with forces which gave form: to man a transitory form, and to the Gods a permanent one. In the Egyptian age this difference was perceived in the opposition of earlier forces to those still at work, but now their opposition was in a different form. In Egypt the solar forces were perceived as the forces of Osiris. Osiris was the power of the sun as it worked in the third epoch of earthly evolution, and the religion of Osiris arose and flourished in this age. Isis represents the power of the moon before its complete separation from the earth, before the division of sex, when the virginal power of reproduction was still operative. Later Isis escaped to the moon, where she became numb—congealed.

In the fourth age, that of the Greco-Latin civilization, humanity experienced in polytheism a remembrance of the Atlantean epoch with its numerous etheric figures of the Gods.

In our age of civilization, the fifth, we have nothing to repeat. Let us bring this thought before our minds: we have nothing to repeat, no ancient remembrances. We have given birth to a fifth age of civilization, one whose results will be seen in the future, while the four previous ages were repetitions of the four preceding cosmic epochs. Our age must give birth not merely to an ancient wisdom, but to a new wisdom, a wisdom which points not only to the past, but which must work prophetically—apocalyptically—into the future. In the mysteries of past ages of civilization we see an ancient wisdom preserved, but our wisdom must be an apocalyptic wisdom, the seed for which must be sown by us. Once again we have need of a principle of initiation so that the primeval connection with spiritual worlds may be renewed.

The task of the Anthroposophical movement is to supply this principle. No wonder that wisdom has been lost to so many, for without the principle of initiation it is very difficult nowadays to obtain wisdom, more difficult than formerly, when the memory of ancient experiences had only to be refreshed, and when the results of earlier development could be brought to the consciousness of man. Today this is difficult; therefore we can understand that the sense-world seems to be without a God, and to be barren and empty; but although it appears as if the ancient spirit-world had died out, it is there; it is working and fructifying, and if man wills he can find connection with the spiritual world.

Care was taken, precisely at the moment when the ancient memories seemed to be disappearing during the Greco-Latin age, that a wonderful new seed for all future time should be laid within the cold ground of the earth; this seed is what we describe as the Christ-Principle. The apocalyptic wisdom, the true new Spiritual Wisdom, will be found in conjunction with this Christ Principle, which does not point back only to memories of past epochs, but prophetically to the future, and precisely through this it summons man to action, to creative work. This productive wisdom has sprung freely from seed that was sown in the past. So we see a far horizon of the future rise before us when we speak of Universe, Earth, and Man. In what follows we shall have to speak not merely of the past, but also of the forces of the future. The world is not merely concerned with what is past, it evolves towards the future, and our epoch has still a long period to pass through before it comes to an end. Man will, however, live on after the earth has disappeared, and, if we are to know him completely, we must look not to the past alone, but must study what is active today, and what will go on working into the great tomorrow of the world.