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Rosicrucian Esotericism
GA 109

6. The Configuration and Metamorphoses of Man's Physical Body

Budapest, June 8, 1909

In continuation of the lecture yesterday concerning man's evolution, we will go back in thought today to epochs in the remote past and consider matters relating to them. Before speaking of the fact of reincarnation and discussing questions of human destiny, however, we will pass in review lengthy periods in ancient epochs of the evolution of humanity.

Man of the present age confronts us as an assemblage of physical body, etheric body, astral body and ego—the bearer of the ego, which means complete independence. Neither the ego nor the astral body are the most perfect members of man's being by reason of being more spiritual; the physical body, a structure consisting of the most wonderful components, is the most perfect member. What a truly magnificent structure it is, this physical body of man! The astral body is admittedly more inherently spiritual but it is less perfect; it is the bearer of joy and pain of urges, desires and passions. Why is the physical body the more perfect? Think of man's physical heart. It is a marvellous structure, holding its ground all through life against attacks! The same applies to all the other organs of the physical body. Wisdom itself is articulate in them. How does the astral body behave toward the heart? Certainly not always wisely! Because of its longings, the astral body needs to have the means for enjoyment and it continually maltreats the physical body, continually launches attacks upon the physical heart, which offers resistance. Why? Because the process of building the physical body has occupied a far longer period in the past than have the other bodies. The physical body is the oldest member of man's being, hence also the most perfect. A host of more advanced beings have already worked on it. Everything physical and material has evolved from spirit, has developed into its present form. The very first beginning of the human being in the physical world was the establishment of his physical body. At that time there were still no rudiments in the physical world of the etheric body, none of the astral body nor of the ego-bearer.

Everything in the universe is subject to the process of evolution, not only man but also a planet such as our earth. Our earth, like man, has already existed in other planetary embodiments, the first of which we call Saturn, the second, Old Sun, and the third, Old Moon. We must not think here of the present moon, which is only residue, dross or slag of the Old Moon.

We will now hear why our moon has since olden time been called “moon.” Here it must be remembered that the giving of names by the old occultists was by no means fortuitous but of deep significance. The name given to a thing or a being was always organically linked with what each was to express. The preceding planetary embodiment of our earth was the Old Moon; the still earlier embodiment was the Old Sun, not the present sun, which is like a remembrance of that ancient Sun. Then we come to that cosmic body to which it is now possible to look back with occult sight; this cosmic body is Saturn, Old Saturn, of which we have already spoken.

I will now speak briefly of the evolution of this ancient Saturn. To begin with, we must be clear in our minds about the character of the basic elements of our outer world, according to occultists. Ancient occultism distinguished the four elements of earth, water, air, fire or warmth. For a modern physicist this no longer has meaning; what modern science calls an element does not coincide with what the occultist means by the word. The modern expression “aggregate condition” means roughly the same as “element.” Everything that is solid in present temperatures on the earth is called by the occultist, “earthy” or “solid”; a quartz crystal, for example, in conditions of present-day temperatures, is “earth” for the occultist. Everything fluid, also fluid metals and so on, is “water” for him; everything aeriform is “air.” What the modern physicists regards as a state of the three “aggressive assemblages,” namely, fire, is for the occultist, the fourth element. I well know that modern science considers it a veritable abomination when fire is regarded not merely as a condition but as something on a par with earth, water or air. On Old Saturn you would have found no earth, water or air; warmth or fire alone was in existence. If at that time—perhaps by putting a chair in cosmic space—you had been able to observe the Saturn evolution with clairvoyant sight, perception of it could only have been through the sense of warmth; at first, this was purely warmth of soul, inner warmth. With the exception of man, no single one of the beings on the earth today was present. There was no mineral, plant or animal kingdom. Under the conditions prevailing today, man needs the three kingdoms for his organic structure; in that period of ancient Saturn it was not so. The whole human being was a formation consisting only of warmth. Otherwise, nothing whatever of man was in existence. Try to think away from man as he is today everything physically perceptible, even the in-haled air, and imagine that he consists only and entirely of the warmth of the blood circulating in him, thus forming a picture of the blood system as it is today. Such was the constitution of all human beings on Saturn. For the occultist, a celestial body is only an assemblage of spiritual beings. The earth, too, is an assemblage of beings belonging to the mineral, plant, animal and human kingdoms.

The consciousness of the men of ancient Saturn was also evolving. It was dull but comprehensive. Only on the earth has the clear day consciousness of the present time become possible. The consciousness of human beings on Saturn was dull and in a curious state. Man, as you know, is today unconscious during sleep. Now think of the plant, simply the physical plant without the beings concealed behind it. There you have a demonstration of a still deeper state, namely, dreamless sleep. The plant is a being in a condition of deep sleep. Now think of a state of sleep that is still deeper, still dimmer. this is the state of deep trance—the Saturn consciousness. I will describe it to you by means of an example of conditions that are abnormal in the modern age, occurring in a human being whose consciousness remained backward. A girl who up to her eighteenth year was totally unaccustomed to any form of alcoholic beverage was tempted by certain circumstances to drink rapidly a number of glassfuls of red wine. On account of certain organic conditions this made such an impression that she fell into a moribund state. A pencil was put in her hand and she began to make all kinds of drawings to which she added names. She had no consciousness whatever of what she was doing. She was like a machine, without life or consciousness. If you were to compare what this girl wrote down with what is said in theosophical books about planets, the structure of the universe today, and so on, you would find that what she wrote is, it is true, a strange cosmology but, for all that, one that in certain respects tallies with occult cosmology. The girl was in a state of consciousness deeper than that of ordinary sleep. In such a state the individual concerned is able in his dull consciousness to move far, far over the earth and to give expression to cosmic facts. The occultist knows that such a consciousness, dull and comprehensive, without the pertinent ego, is present in a physical stone, and that if the stone could be articulate it would be able to do what the girl did. This consciousness, although dull, embraces vast regions. Such was the consciousness of men on ancient Saturn.

Saturn itself was an entity unconscious of its own identity, or better said, was possessed of a low form of consciousness to be described by saying that it bore within it a mirror-image of the whole cosmos and would have been capable of delineating it. To understand what this implies we must consider other matters. While man was finding on Saturn the sphere where the first rudiments for his physical body could take shape, Saturn was at the same time the stage at which other beings also were able to evolve, beings whose rank today is much higher than that of man. We will clarify this by quoting an utterance once made by an Egyptian sage to a Greek. He said, “You Greeks remain forever big children. You know nothing about the greatest secret of the Mysteries, namely, that gods were once men.” It is no longer necessary for these beings to enter into physical existence.

On ancient Saturn, then, man was a kind of mineral; his consciousness was also on a par with that of the mineral. But beings who today are at a stage far higher than that of men once lived in human bodies. These are the Archai, First Beginnings, or Spirits of Personality. They passed through their “human” epoch on Old Saturn.1For an explanation of “human” epoch, see An Outline of Occult Science, Anthroposophic Press, 1972, pp. 125–6. They were not men as we are today but merely made use of the then “physical” body in order to experience their human epoch, to acquire ego consciousness. These sublime beings therefore acquired ego consciousness on Saturn and used the human body as a vehicle deputizing as their bodily dwelling place. Certain beings permeated the human physical body together with their distinctive characteristics and for these, man today owes twofold thanks. First, the faculty that alone enables an ego-bearer to find a footing in him; it was these Spirits of Personality who endowed the human body at that time with the form proceeding from their own nature. But second, they also made it possible for man to develop selfishness. Through the influence of the Spirits of Personality, man's body was endowed with the germinal capacity to develop as a free personality but at the same time to cultivate selfishness, egoism. If I wanted to describe all the pertinent details of this process I should need not one lecture or one lecture course but years. Hence, we can study steps or stages only and we will consider seven such stages in the Saturn evolution, each differing from the others.

At the first stage you must picture to yourselves that as yet no physical warmth was present but that this was only in preparation. All that was present was purely of the nature of soul; soul warmth was present, and not until the midpoint of Saturn evolution was the physical human body in existence, composed of physical warmth substance. At the end of the Saturn evolution this human body of warmth dissolves. There are seven stages: three preliminary stages, a stage of physical warmth and three descending stages; each of these seven stages has again seven sub-divisions of which it is better not to speak at this point and to which we will return in the course of studying the evolution of the earth. In modern theosophical literature these stages are called rounds and globes.

But now we will ask, “Whence came the substance out of which the human body was formed?” Sublime spiritual beings poured forth their own being and let it flow down as substance for the physical body of man. These beings were the Spirits of Will or the Thrones. They made the sacrifice of allowing the outpouring of their own being to take place. On Saturn, then, we find the Spirits of Will or the Thrones who give the substance for the human body, then the Spirits of Personality who inhabit Saturn during their human epoch and man himself as a physical germinating entity. The Saturn evolution takes its course in such a way that we must picture the beginning, the zenith and the ebb. Thereafter, the whole planet passes through a pralaya. We can think of the process in connection with the plant. The seed is laid in the earth, decays and carries over the form into a new existence. Just as between the first and the second plant there is an intermediate condition, a hidden condition, so is it in the case of the planet. This condition is called the “sleep of worlds.”

After this sleep of worlds, when Saturn appeared again but metamorphosed, it was the Old Sun that now came into existence. The difference between Saturn and Sun is that the warmth substance of Saturn had densified to a gaseous state. Old Sun retained the warmth but evolved something as well, namely, air, so that on the Old Sun there was now warmth and air, and moreover light. Saturn consisted of dark warmth; the second planet, Old Sun, consisted of light—burning gas—warmth ether and air. Through Saturn there came into existence once and forever the foundation for the existence of the seed of the physical body of man. Now, on Old Sun, something new is added. The etheric body is poured into this substance by spiritual beings. This is the second planetary condition in which man has achieved the status of a plant. There is life in him. Through the integration of the etheric body, however, the physical body of man has also changed. It does not retain the egg-form of the Saturn period but is membered in itself. It is now a vibrant warmth egg in which forms of light gleam and fade away and in which there are indentures. The etheric body now works upon and elaborates the physical body.

Whereas on Saturn the Thrones poured out from them-selves the substance of the physical body, it is now other beings who pour out substance as their great sacrifice. These beings are the Spirits of Wisdom, Dominions or Kyriotetes. The more difficult sacrifice had been made by the Thrones. Had they not created the foundation, the Spirits of Wisdom could not have begun their work.

Again there were beings who passed through their “human” epoch on the Sun, namely, the Archangels or Fire Spirits—Archangeloi in Christian esotericism. Acting as substitutes they indwelt the body of man and in this way developed their ego consciousness.

Something must here be mentioned that it is important to remember. If, after pralaya, Saturn had emerged directly as Sun, the bodies of men could not have received the etheric body into themselves. On the new planet, Old Sun, there had first to be a brief recapitulation of Saturn, during which the beings concerned were obliged to assume their old form once again.

What other kind of beings were to be found on Old Sun? Certain Spirits of Personality had not reached their human stage on Saturn, had not succeeded in acquiring their ego consciousness on Saturn. They were obliged to make up for this on Old Sun and were therefore still at the same stage as their companions on Saturn. Hence, on Old Sun they were obliged to live as it were in a husk, in a mineral body that was not permeated by an etheric body. On Old Sun, therefore, a structure consisting only of physical body came into existence. Thus, structures of a lower grade existed side by side with those that consisted of physical body and etheric body, and these were the predecessors of our present animals. On Old Sun, therefore, there were two kingdoms: a human kingdom and the kingdom of the beings who, on Old Sun, were at the stage of the Saturn evolution. They constitute our present animal kingdom. On Old Sun there were thus two preliminary kingdoms, a human kingdom and an animal kingdom. The successors of the latter are the present higher animals.

Old Sun now passes again into a kind of “cosmic night” and is born again in a third metamorphosis as Old Moon, which is able, at the beginning, to recapitulate the earlier stages to which fluid or watery substance is now added. When the separation of the Sun takes place, warmth and light go with it; sublime beings also go forth together with the finer essences. What has become fluid or “watery” goes forth as Moon, condenses further and becomes a kind of secondary planet. At that time on Old Moon, therefore, there were warmth, light and water. Man has his etheric or light body as on Old Sun; the new element that is added on Old Moon is what may be called tone or sound. In order to realize more clearly what this means I will give an illustration. Think of a metal plate covered with powder, across the edge of which a violin bow is drawn. The powder shapes itself into definite forms—the sound figures of the physicist. What we today recognize as sound or tone is the physical configuration of the sound. The “water” on the Old Moon was permeated with sound and thereby stirred into regular movement. Inner experience is thereby made possible in the physical bodies of beings on Old Moon; organs take shape, for example, the liver, but it passes away again. The process is one of the forming and disappearance of organs, an experience of figures and rhythms. The bodies present are thus made ready to receive astral substance into themselves. The impact of the primeval tone in the watery substance is expressed in the Bible as follows: God arranged everything according to measure, number and weight. The essentially new feature of Old Moon evolution is therefore the process of inner oscillation that is forced, as it were, into the physical substance. You must think of Old Moon as being permeated by this inner oscillation, which is diversified into regular, numerical rhythms. Earlier, on Saturn, it had been warmth formations that built the human body; later, on Old Sun, it had been aeriform formations, appearing like an aerial mirage, like a Fata Morgana. On Old Moon, substance was now water, stirred into movement by inner oscillation. Organic members involved in a process of inner metamorphosis were brought into existence by this oscillation and shimmered through the human body. You must conceive of this as a transient process of coming into being and passing away again; thus, a liver or lung was formed in the human body and then dissolved. Such were the conditions on Old Moon. The Bible expresses it as follows: God once ordered everything according to number, measure and weight. The inner oscillation is here meant.

Within Old Moon there now, firstly, come into existence again the earlier structures of the human body; the physical and etheric bodies are formed again. Why? Because what first takes place on Old Moon is a repitition of the Saturn and Old Sun embodiments. Only then does the real Old Mood come into existence. Into the physical human body, which now contained the watery substance on the one hand, and on the other, as a result of the inner oscillation, was permeated by the primal tone and the etheric body, the Spirits of Movement, Powers or Dynameis pour the astral body of man. They, as the Spirits of Will on Saturn and the Spirits of Wisdom on the Sun had done, now offer up, out of their own substance, the human astral body. Thus, the development of the earth is continually progressing, and also that of man himself who is to inhabit it.

The human physical body, as you have heard, developed on Saturn. Through the three metamorphoses—Saturn, Sun, Moon—it has now reached the third stage of perfection. On Old Moon this physical body of man had come still nearer to resemble its present form. But the further development that was necessary for man's astral body would not have been possible on the earth if a severance had not taken place at a certain point of time. A basic mass of substance of the planet—the Old Moon—remained; part of it went out and surrounded the basic mass. Firstly, there was Saturn; secondly, Sun; thirdly, Moon. The best substances and beings have now separated into a basic body which, during the earth period, again separates and becomes a fixed star, higher in rank than a planet. Still another body separates and remains a planet. The sun of today was once a planet. If you were to take the present sun, the present moon and the substance of our earth with its beings, and combine them in a huge vessel, you would have Old Sun. If you were to combine earth and moon you would have Old Moon.

In the course of the evolution of humanity, our sun separated from the planet earth. With it the best substances and the best beings went out of the earth. The watery element, becoming denser and denser, accompanied the sun. The dense figures and forms are the bearers of the beings who inhabited Old Moon. Human beings now chose a separate scene of action. A fixed star, a sun, always comes into existence as the result of a planet having advanced. During this process of evolution, men were not the only beings who were present and had evolved to the stage of having as members the three bodies, physical body, etheric body and astral body. There were also other beings who had remained behind in their development.

The beings who had passed through their “human” epoch. on Old Moon were the Angels, called Angeloi in Christian esotericism and in India, Lunar Pitris. The consciousness of these beings was different from that of men today. But on Old Moon there were other beings as well. There were certain Archangeloi who had remained backward on Old Sun and were now obliged to repeat their “human” stage on Old Moon. There were also beings who had reached the stage of Spirits of Personality, (i.e., the Saturn stage of humanity) on Old Moon for the first time.

The Archangeloi who had become backward on Old Sun, produced as human bodies structures that had physical and etheric bodies only. This was a kingdom below that of man, a kingdom that continued on the earth as the animal kingdom; the beings belonging to it were the precursors of the physical bodies of the present animal world, and beings who on Old Moon had only a physical body were the precursors of the present plant kingdom, Thus, on Old Moon there was a human kingdom, an animal kingdom and a plant kingdom, on Saturn there was a human kingdom only, and on Old Sun a human kingdom and and animal kingdom. The mineral kingdom is the last of the kingdoms that have come into existence in the process of cosmic evolution. Man, the human kingdom, is the oldest kingdom in the evolutionary process; he was already there before the earth was in existence. On the earth he then receives, in addition to this three bodies, the fourth member of his being, the bearer of the ego.