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The Cosmic Prehistoric Ages of Mankind
GA 184

II. Lucifer and Ahriman

21 September 1918, Dornach

In the lectures of last week I pointed out how with the aid of the science of initiation one must strive to press forward from the apparent reality, that is actually around us continually, to the true reality. And I pointed out that the effort which is agreeable to most people, the effort to find a single rational theory of the universe precisely diverts from reality, leads precisely to delusion. I said that much rather must one strive to distinguish two currents of reality, in regard to human knowledge as well, and then in a living manner unite with each other what can be found in these two currents.

Let us briefly recapitulate what we have realised with regard to these two currents in human knowledge and let us then seek to create the necessary requirements for a conception of reality on this foundation. You will remember that I said: The course of human life is actually one in which man can only comprehend in the second half of life what he has thought, what his soul on the whole has gone through in the first half. I said that natural intelligence is active in us from birth to the change of teeth, the intelligent element prevails. What prevails as intelligence and also what we learn in these first years of life, is not yet grasped through our own human forces if we look only at the one current of which we have to speak. If man were simply thrown on his own resources as earthly man, then only in later life at the end of the fifties, the beginning of the sixties, would be able to understand what he thought, felt and willed as a child up to the change of teeth. Thus it is only in later years that one becomes mature, as it were, to self-knowledge of the intimate life of childhood. The forces in man that can grasp what one went through intelligently in the first years of childhood are in fact only born as late as that in human life.

Then we have a second life-period that dates from the change of teeth to puberty. Only think (it is shown in the booklet Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy what the child goes through in thought, feeling, willing, up to puberty, Through his own human earthly forces man would be able to grasp what he goes through then only at the end of the forties, the beginning of, the fifties

And again what we live through from puberty into the twenties: we should only grasp this through our own human forces at the end of our thirties and beginning of our forties. What we devise and develop as ideals we should only grasp in its importance, its value to life, in our thirties if we were left to our human life forces. Only what we experience between the ages of 28 and 35 stands for itself and can be approximately grasped at the time. This middle member of man's lifetime has a certain equilibrium, there we can at the same time develop our thought and comprehend it, but not in the other years of life.

You get a grasp of man's development in a lifetime if you reflect upon what has been brought forward, you see how man evolves as earthly man in time. In so far as we are bound to time, self-knowledge would only be possible if we waited until the right time of life arrived for a comprehension of what we had thought in an earlier period of life. The total human life is interconnected. If we were only earthly man in time we should, as personality, know nothing at all of ourselves, if we did not in age look back to what developed in us in youth.

Now that is the one aspect of man, the one current of human life. As regards this stream man is entirely subjected to time, he can do nothing but wait till the time is ripe. But I have already pointed out to you that the way life is lived through in our maya-existence, is not the true face of human life, it is merely its appearance when we regard it as taking place in time. Yet what one specifies in this way about the time-course of human life is entirely real. For what we normally experience between birth and death — with this, as I have said, we can if necessary, and if one is content to stay on the surface, live, but with it one cannot die. For all our normal knowledge, what we learn from the instruction of others, what one learns from the store acquired through the course of history, in short, what as temporal man one learns in any other way than by looking back in age at youth — that perishes at death, that we do not carry from the one current through the gate of death. Only what we have acquired in conformity with this correspondence do we carry through the portal of death. And do not imagine that you don't do what I have described! Each of you who has come to a later age of life looks back in his subconsciousness to the earlier years of his life. What I have described most definitely takes place, even if it takes place subconsciously. And you would carry nothing from the external temporal course of life through death if it did not so take place. In the age of materialism, however, men pay little heed to this, yet all that the materialistic age can bring to man cannot be taken with him through the gate of death. That alone has significance for the world which you pass through in the sense that you grasp in age what has taken Place in your whole nature in youth. That is the one stream.

The other stream arises through the fact that man is not merely soul and body. As a being of soul and body his existence takes its course in time as we have again shown. But man is also a being of spirit and soul. And through his soul-spirit nature he is not merely in the realm of time which has just been characterised but in the realm of duration. And there again he is very different from what he thinks. There he goes through no development, he is the same being from birth to death, but his thinking, feeling and willing are something very different from how they appear to him. His thinking and also a part of his feeling is a transposing of himself into cosmic regions where the conflict of gods takes place (I described this in a recent lecture [ 15th September 1918 (not translated). ]), and again willing and a part of feeling is the transposing of oneself into another region of the cosmos where the conflict of gods takes place I said to you that to reflect and ponder means transposing oneself into a certain region of spirituality and taking part in certain conflicts of one order of spirits with another; similarly willing means taking part in certain conflicts — even though in one or another case these conflicts may have come to a standstill. It is a profound truth presented in one of the Mystery Dramas, The Portal of Initiation, that while processes of soul and spirit are enacted in us great cosmic events are happening Just as man in the age of materialism will have no notion of his soul-body nature that runs its course in time, so will man know nothing of this spirit-soul element that acts in the realm of duration, but appears quite different from his thinking, feeling, willing in ordinary life and seen in ito reality, takes place as spirit-conflicts, However paradoxical it may sound to the materialistic thinker, when you form a thought it is very different from what it appears to you in maya. Let us suppose that you form a thought, let us say a thought on what we considered in the last lecture — a thought on space. The moment you think about space, even in the abstractness of the modern concept of space, the moment your spirit fills itself with the space-thought, you transpose your soul into a spiritual region where Ahriman is engaged in a mighty fight against hierarchies of a different nature. You could not have the thought of space without living in a region where Ahriman fights against other hierarchies. And when you develop a desire, if you say, for instance, I will go for a walk, even when it is such an insignificant determination as this, as soon as you set this will in action, you place yourself spiritually in a region where the Luciferic spirits fight against spirits of other hierarchies. Seen from the aspect of initiation-science, what takes place in the world is essentially different from its shadowy reflection, which we know in our maya-existence, between birth and death. For, my dear friends, what we perceive thus as maya is nothing more than something that can be compared with the wave-ripples on the surface of the sea. I put the picture before you in the last lecture: the ripples of the waves on the surface of the sea would not be there without the sea beneath and the air above. The forces that produce the ripples of the waves are in the sea, in the air, and the rippled waves are only the image of the forces striking together from above and below, So is our life in maya between birth and death nothing else than a striking together of two forces. On the one hand the spiritual conflicts which in truth take place in the realm of duration when we think, feel, will; on the other hand the course of evolution in time which consists in our comprehending only in later years the thinking life of youth. Our life in fact is a nothingness if we do not look on it from the confluence and conjunction of these two true realities. Behind our life are these two true realties.

Now behind our life there is not only on the one hand the time-course which would cause us to wait and wait in order to grasp something that we conceived formerly, nor is there only the processes in duration that take place our whole life through in a similar way between birth and death but we ourselves stand within this reality, and this too appears to us only in its reflected image. Our whole relation to the world appears to us only in its reflection. To know the truth always demands our strengthening ourselves to know it; truth does not come to us if we want merely to remain passive. To know the truth means that one knows oneself to be standing in the two currents that I have indicated, in the realm of time and the realm of duration. And while we stand within these two realms, and a life goes on which has no other significance with regard to the true forces than has the rippled sea with regard to the storming air and the flood beneath surging up and down, we pass our life between death and birth and then again also between birth, and death. The forces and powers occupy themselves with us while we so pass our life. For mighty forces are ever at hand which endeavour to tear us away from the ordinary earthly life as it takes its course in maya, and similarly other forces are there which are at pains to tear us away from the realm of duration. On the one hand (let us hold fast to this) we have our course of life in time, where we only become mature at a late period to grasp what goes on in us in the future; there are forces and powers which would confine us to what we are as man, which would like to mould us as human beings so that this takes place. That means, however: there are forces and powers that want our earthly life to run its course in maya, so that we experience this or that in childhood, but grasp nothing of it, lead a sort of sleep-life up to the age of 28, then begin somewhat to comprehend the present, and then after the age of 35 begin to comprehend the earlier. There are forces and powers which would like to make us mere temporal beings, beings who for the first half of life would lead more or less a sleeping plant-life and in the second half would look back and understand what took place during this sleep. There are forces and powers which would like to make man for the first half of his life, a dreamer, and in the second half a being who remembers these dreams and thus comes to self-consciousness. If these forces and powers should alone work upon us it would practically mean that our soul would not be born till the beginning of our thirties, or at earliest in our twenty-eighth year. Before that we should go about on earth drunken with sleep.

If that were so, we should become torn free from our whole cosmic past. Our present existence rests upon the fact that we have gone through a cosmic past, through the Saturn, Sun, Moon evolution, as I have shown it in Occult Science. During the passage through the Saturn, Sun, Moon periods, Beings of the higher Hierarchies who have a special interest that human beings should arise in the cosmos. Beings who are the creators of mankind, developed us and established us in earthly existence. In earth-existence we are now such men according to the one stream as I have described. Forces and powers are present which would shape us only as such earthmen; should they conquer, they would tear us away from our Saturn, Sun, Moon past. They would conserve us in earth-life, make us purely men of earth. That is what certain powers are striving for; they are the Ahrimanic powers. Ahriman strives to make us purely temporal men, to loosen our earth-life from our cosmic past. He strives to make the earth utterly and entirely a self-contained entity, to make us entirely telluric, earthly with the earth.

There are other forces and powers which strive for the exact opposite, to tear us from this time-life, to endow us with a thinking, feeling and willing that trickles in, as it were, solely from the region of duration. These beings strive to fill us from childhood on, and with no effort of our own, with a certain quantum of thinking, feeling and willing and then to conserve it for us throughout the whole course of life. Should they conquer, our whole temporal life would dry up. We should finally, — indeed quite soon, it would have happened long ago if these beings had conquered, — lay aside the physical corporeality, the bodily spirit-being, and become pure spirits. But our task, in so far as it comes from our earth-existence, would not have been fulfilled. We should be drawn away from earth-existence. To these beings the earth is too evil, they hate the earth, they would like to get rid of it. They would like to lift man from the earth and give him an existence purely in the realm of duration; they would like him to discard all that takes its course in time in the way I have described. These are the Luciferic beings. They strive for just the opposite of what the Ahrimanic beings desire. The Ahrimanic beings seek to free man together with the whole of earth-existence from the cosmic past and to conserve the earthly. The Luciferic beings strive to thrust away the earth, thrust away from man everything earthly and spiritualize him entirely, so that the forces of the earth cannot work upon him. They would like man to be purely a cosmic being, and would like the earth to fall away from evolution and be cast out into the universe. Whereas Ahriman wants the earth to become an independent entity and man's whole world, the Luciferic beings strive towards the opposite goal. They want the earth to be thrust away from humanity and humanity to be lifted into that realm where they themselves have their existence, the pure world of duration. In order to attain this object the Luciferic beings seek perpetually to make the human intelligence automatic, they endeavour to crush down man's free will. Should intelligence become purely automatic and the free will crushed, then with automatic intelligence and not with our own will, but the will of the gods, we should be able to accomplish what it fell to us to perform. We should become entirely cosmic beings. That is the goal towards which the Luciferic beings strive. They endeavour to make us pure spirits, such as have cosmic intelligence in place of their own, spirits who have no free will, and whose thinking and acting run their course automatically, as among the Hierarchy of the Angels and to a great extent in the hierarchy of the Luciferic beings — but here in another respect. They wish to make us pure spirits and to cast away the earthly impulse. Moreover they want to create an intelligence for us which is entirely uninfluenced by any kind of brain and absolutely untouched by the interweaving of free will.

The beings who flock round Ahriman, the Ahrimanic beings, want on the contrary to cultivate most specially human intellect, to cultivate it to the extent of being increasingly dependent on the whole earth-existence. They want, moreover, to develop intensively man's individual will — that is, precisely all that the Luciferic beings wish to repress. The Ahrimanic beings, or, expressed better, the spirits serving Ahriman, want to develop fully precisely this — we must take that definitely into account. The human being in this way would come to a sort of self-sufficiency. He would, it is true, be a dreamer in his youth, and in later years be extremely clever and understand many things through his own practical experience, yet he would receive nothing as a revelation from the spiritual worlds. Do not let us deceive ourselves about that. Everything through which one is clever in youth has arisen only from revelation, one's own experience enters only in later years. The Ahrimanic beings want to limit us to this personal experience. We should be beings of independent will, but as beings of soul and spirit we should have at most to be born in our 28th year. Just consider: we as human beings, are actually standing in between these two conflicting aims of the spiritual worlds. And in a certain sense we have the task as man so to live our life in the world that we follow neither Ahriman nor Lucifer but find an equilibrium between the two currents.

One can imagine that it is gruesome even to our materialistic age for men to hear what actually takes place at the foundation of human nature. Because it is gruesome it was so arranged in the world-order that in ancient times divine teachers imparted to men a supersensible knowledge, so that they did not themselves need to face this spirit-conflict. The initiates could be silent about the spirit-conflict to the outer world. There have always been men who know, knew, of this spirit-conflict which is enacted in every human being behind the scenes of life. There were always men who had convinced themselves that life is a struggle through a conflict, that it encloses a danger in itself. But the principle also existed not to lead men to the threshold of the spiritual world, not to lead them to the Guardian of the Threshold, so that (forgive the expression but it fits) — so that they did not get the horrors. But the times have passed in which that is possible. For the time will come in future earthly evolution when the separation must take place between the children of Lucifer and the children of Ahriman, either the one or the other. But to know that one stands within it, and in this standing within one must guide one's life with knowledge, that must be said today as a necessity of life for man's future, and it must be understood. There can be no mere science of silence for the future.

Anyone who wishes to get a true knowledge of life must develop cosmic sensitivity. What does that mean? It means that he must learn to look at the world somewhat differently from the customary way of seeing it from the standpoint of maya. When one goes through the world with the science of initiation then feelings arise which are not there as long as one remains merely in the knowledge of maya. Feelings arise which the ordinary person looks on not merely as paradoxical, but as foolish and fantastic, yet which have every possible justification as regards true reality. One who possesses the science of initiation and meets with a human being hovers to and fro between two perceptions. You man (he thinks to himself), you oscillate between two possibilities. Either you fall a prey entirely to the temporal, you become mineralised and stiffened inasmuch as you become solely earth-man and lose your past, or else you evaporate in the spirit to a spiritual automaton, you do not reach your goal as human being in spite of being spirit. — It might be said that in confronting a man there really always come towards one two men, the one who is in danger of petrifying in his form, becoming dense and rigid and growing together with the earth; and the other who is in danger of thrusting out all that tends to the mineralising and the hardening process, and is in danger of becoming quite soft, jelly-like, and finally of dissolving as spiritual automaton in the All. These two beings actually meet those who observe a man through the means furnished by the science of initiation. One always feels anxiety, so to say (one must choose such words as language provides, thus many things sound a paradox when one points to the realm of reality) — one has ever anxiety lest the men who confront one suddenly all become like those remarkable figures sometimes seen on the face of a rocky cliff: a knight on horseback, or other figures in the mountains, sleeping maidens, and so on. Men could become something like this and unite with the rock of the earth and only live on as mineralised form. On the other hand, however, they could thrust out all that leads them to mineralisation and could become jelly-like: those organs that have contracted could swell out the ears, could become gigantic and include the throat, wing-like organs could grow out of the shoulders combined with all this; all as soft as a jellyfish but dissolving as if out of its own surging wave formation.

And such perception, such cosmic sensitivity, so to say, arises not only when one confronts a human being with initiation knowledge, but ultimately one carries over to everything what one receives through this cosmic sensitivity. You have assuredly remarked that the tendency to rigidify, to become rock-like; comes from Ahriman; the tendency to volatilize, become first jelly-like, then dissolving: comes from Lucifer. But this is not confined to man himself, it extends over all the abstraction that one meets. One learns to perceive all straight lines as Ahrimanic; all curved lines as Luciferic. The circle is the symbol of Lucifer; the straight line the symbol of Ahriman. The human head with its tendency (one can see it in the skeleton) to petrify, to ossify in the form given it by the earth and to remain hard, is Ahrimanic formation. If forces that work in the human head were active in the whole man he would acquire the figure of Ahriman as you have him over there in our Group. He would be entirely permeated by headness — so to say he would be entirely his own intelligence; but egotistic intelligence; and entirely his own will so that the will comes to expression in the form itself.

If we look at the rest of man, not the head-man, but the extremities, man in the broader sense; we have the idea: If the forces working in the rest of man worked through man as a whole he would then be formed like the figure of Lucifer in the Group. And wherever we look; whether in the life of nature or in social life, we can look into the Ahrimanic or the Luciferic if we are equipped with the science of initiation. We must only perceive it and to develop this sensitive perception is a necessity in man's future evolution. Man must learn to feel that the Lucifer character prevails throughout the world, it prevails too through man's social life. It wants above all to get rid of everything that pertains to rule and order in the world and the laws that men have established. In man's social life there is nothing, so much hated by Lucifer as anything that smells at all of law.

Ahriman would like to have laws; inscribe laws everywhere. And again human community-life is interwoven with the hatred of Lucifer against law and Ahriman's sympathy for it — and one does not understand life if one does not understand it as a dualism. Ahriman likes all that is outer form, that can stiffen; Lucifer likes — the Luciferic beings like — all that is formless, that dissolves form, becomes fluid and flexible. By life itself one must learn to create the balance between the wanting to stiffen and the becoming fluid.

Look at the forms of our Bau [ The first Goetheanum, destroyed by fire December 31, 1922. ], the straight line led over everywhere into the curved, equilibrium sought; everywhere an endeavour to dissolve the fixed again in the fluid, everywhere rest produced in the movement, but the rest transposed again into movement. That is the whole spiritual element in our Bau. As men of the future we must try to shape something in art and life knowing that there below is Ahriman who would let everything grow rigid, there above is Lucifer who wishes to spiritualize everything; both, however, must remain invisible, for in the world of maya only the wave-ripples may appear. Woe if Ahriman or Lucifer should themselves press into what desires to be life! And so our Bau has become what it is: a state of balance in the universe which is wrested, lifted out, of the realm of Ahriman and the realm of Lucifer. Everything culminates in the central figure of our Group, in this Representative of mankind, in whom the whole Luciferic and Ahrimanic element is to be blotted out. And the fact that this is so, that all is lifted out of what is to remain purely spiritual, comes to expression in the Group, where the Luciferic and Ahrimanic elements are set visibly in balance to each other so that men learn to understand it.

That is the perspective which one must place before men today, so that they may learn to grasp how they must find the state of equilibrium between the Ahrimanic and the Luciferic. The Ahrimanic regulates us always — even in soul and spirit — rectilinearly; the Luciferic brings us always into curving or circular movement and diversifies us. If we have a one-sided tendency to monotheism, if we strive to the whole world as a unity, then Ahriman tugs us by one ear; if we become monadists, one-sided monadists, explaining the world out of many, many atoms or monads only, without unity, then Lucifer is tugging us by the other ear. — In fact, to one who has insight things are like this: when monists dispute with pluralists, monadists, then the man who is actually disputing is generally quite guiltless, for behind him, if he is a monist. Ahriman is pulling him by the ear and whispering all the fine reasons the self-believed logic which he presents for his monism; and if he is a follower of Leibniz or some other monadist, —Lucifer is there and whispers all the fine reasons for the manifoldness of spiritual beings. What must be sought is the state of equilibrium, unity in multiplicity, multiplicity in unity. However, that is less easy and convenient than to seek either the unity or the multiplicity; as it is altogether less comfortable to seek a state of equilibrium than something where one can just rest in laziness. Men become either sceptics or mystics, The sceptics feel that they have fine minds that can doubt everything, the mystics feel that they are permeated by the divine and that with love and knowledge they can embrace all things in their own inner being. The Sceptics are in fact but pupils of Ahriman and the mystics but pupils of Lucifer. For what mankind must strive towards is the state of balance; mystic experience in scepticism, scepticism in mystic experience. It is not the point whether one is Montaigne or Augustine, the point is that what Montaigne represents is illumined through Augustine and what Augustine represents is illumined through Montaigne. One-sidednesses mislead men in the direction of the one or the other stream. What is actually the meaning of “towards the Luciferic”? The Luciferic is really there to make us headless, to take away our own intelligence and free-will. The Luciferic spirits (it is better to say “Luciferic spirits” and to say “Ahriman”, for although there are hosts in the following of Ahriman, Ahriman stands out as a unity, because he strives for unity, and the Luciferic element shows itself as plurality, because it strives for plurality — therefore one expresses it as I have already done in the course of today's lecture) — the Luciferic element really wants us to die at 28, it does not want us to grow old. And if things went entirely according to this Luciferic element we should become children, young men and women, would receive good knowledge trickled in from duration, but at approximately the age of 28 we should get sclerosis and rapidly become cretins. Thus what we could develop as human comprehension would be thrust out just as sclerosis would be thrust out and what we receive in youth could be made automatic and spiritualised. The Luciferic spirits would like to take us at once and not let us first go through the Jupiter, Venus, Vulcan evolution in order then only to become cosmic beings. They do not consider that necessary but strive to take man away from the earth with what he has already evolved through the Saturn, Sun, Moon existence. That is the one stream which wants to hurry on with man as quickly as possible, it is a premature stream. The Luciferic spirits would like to storm in and lead us as quickly as possible into cosmic reality. The Ahrimanic spirits would like to root out our past and make the earth our starting point; they would like to wipe out our past, conserve us on the earth and then set us back to where we were as Saturn-beings. It is a retrograde, retarding movement. Life is ultimately compounded out of a premature and a retrograde movement and the state of equilibrium between them must be found.

Do not say, my dear friends, that these things are difficult, for that is not at all the point. I spoke yesterday of how in early times men had the experience of space and time, of how they experienced them concretely, while we experience them so abstractly. We must learn so to look at our environment that everywhere we experience in balance this interplay of stiffening and evaporating, of deserting and thrusting back, of straight line and curve line. One can sleep with what simply looks at the world. If one looks at it awake, then it threatens to rigidify or evaporate in its whole nature as soon as it comes out of the state of equilibrium. We must develop this feeling and it must become as alive in the men of the future as was the ancient feeling for space and time in the men of the past.

One can have a sensitive perception concerning much in our Group. One can feel in the centre the Representative of humanity with its lines and planes and forms, where everything Luciferic and Ahrimanic is obliterated. The forms are there, but as far as it allows in the human figure the Luciferic and Ahrimanic is rooted out. One can find Lucifer and Ahriman held fast in their forms; one can feel the contrast between the central human being and Lucifer and Ahriman, and can go through the world with this feeling and find its correspondence everywhere. One who is able to assimilate what lives in the feelings that are brought forth by this trinity will absorb much for a certain autopsy of life. Much will be revealed by the world when one contemplates it with the feelings resulting out of the trinity: the central human being or Representative of mankind, Ahriman, Lucifer, And as to the ancient space-feeling the three-foldness was revealed, and to the ancient time-feeling the oneness of the Divine, so must one of the loftiest world-mysteries be revealed to the humanity of the future, in that it is in the position to grasp concretely the stiffening, the evaporating, the deserting, the thrusting back, the straight-lined, the curve, the law-loving, the law-hating, and so on. The recognition of the state of oscillation everywhere in life — that is what matters. For life is not possible unless there is such a state of oscillation, If you have a clock with a pendulum you can of course want to avoid the swinging to and fro and make the pendulum stand still, but the clock will be of no use to you, the pendulum must swing. In life there must be this pendulum condition. That must be noted everywhere.