The Evolution of Consciousness
11. Experience of the World's Past
29 August 1923, Penmaenmawr
If we look back on the descriptions given yesterday, we shall be aware that man, living through successive times after death — and we have to use the word “time” in relation to physical conditions — comes first of all to the realm of the Moon Beings, and then passes on to that of the Sun Beings. The Moon Beings still belong to earthly-existence in a certain sense and the experiences a man goes through under their influence in the soul-world are indeed cosmic memories of earthly existence. He has experiences also of his own earthly life, though now in a backwards direction, and these are united with the judgments of the Cosmos, as I called them yesterday. These cosmic judgments are made known to men after death through the Moon Beings. We then come under the influence of these Beings, and it is they who cause the judgments to flow into us, in the same way as those that flow into us, here on Earth, from minerals, plants and animals. So we can say: On entering spiritual-cosmic existence after death, a man gains his first glimpse into such cosmic perceptions as still proceed from Beings once connected with the Earth. We have already had occasion to speak of how these Beings, before taking up their abode in the cosmic stronghold of the Moon, were Teachers of human beings in the ancient Mysteries. Hence, what a man once experienced on Earth, in primeval times, he now experiences when journeying through the soul-world, under the influence of those Beings who have been raised — we might perhaps say — to become inhabitants of the Moon. We can truly speak of them in this way if sufficient consideration is given to what was said in my last lecture. These inhabitants of the Moon, under the leadership of the one-time Teachers of mankind, judge quite differently from the way things are judged by people on Earth. For people on Earth, in their life between birth and death, are now approaching a stage completed by the Moon-dwellers in long past ages.
Reckoning by earthly years, we must say that the inhabitants of the Moon, when on Earth, accomplished quite 15,000 years ago what human beings still have to do. More than 15,000 years have passed since these Moon inhabitants acquired the power of making judgments which bring together the naturalistic and the moral.
We on Earth keep our naturalistic judgments separate, and when giving an opinion about a stone or an animal we leave morality aside. We say: “Nature follows only an amoral necessity.” But this is not true of the world as a whole. Even though we may consider that moral judgments are not applicable to individual animals, or to plants, or to minerals above all, in their separate forms of existence, yet the very fact of their creation, of their being in the world at all, is entirely the result of cosmic moral judgment.
Now these Moon-dwellers already judge in terms of cosmic morality. Therefore, when we have passed through the gate of death and are together with them, we must listen to all the Cosmos has to say about what we have thought, wished, felt, willed and done on Earth. Our entire earthly life is exposed to the light of cosmic judgment, and we learn the value our deeds have for the whole great universe.
From these lessons we develop the impulse to complete, to correct, or in some way to set right, during our next life on Earth, whatever we have done either to help or to hinder the evolution of the world. And so, while thus under the influence of the Moon Beings, we take up the impulses for our future destiny — for our karma, as oriental wisdom has always called it. These impulses are thus absorbed while the human being is still under the influence of dwellers in the Moon, who are able to tell him how much his earthly deeds and thoughts are worth for the Cosmos.
The spiritual Beings of the higher world, in whose neighbourhood a man lives while under the influence of the Moon-dwellers, are those grouped together in my Occult Science as the Hierarchy of Angels, Archangels, Archai. Of the ranks of Beings whose realm a man enters after death, they are the first who do not have to live through a phase of earthly embodiment. On their side, they stand in close connection with the Beings of the still higher Hierarchies. But it is with this Hierarchy of Angels, Archangels and Archai that a man is essentially concerned during his Moon existence after death, while the higher Hierarchies are still beyond his ken.
The judgments of the Angels are especially important for the deeds of individual men, and it is thus from the Angels that a man learns the value his deeds have in the Cosmos as a whole. From the Archangels he learns more about the value of what he has done in connection with the language he speaks, with the people to whom he belongs, and from this source also come impulses which work into his further destiny, his karma. From the Archai he learns what value his actions during a given period on Earth will have for the time when he has to descend once more from spiritual heights into earthly existence.
By means of all that a man can achieve in this way if — and I beg you to bear the following in mind — he has rightly prepared himself for life after death through the impulses he is able to receive on Earth, and particularly (as we shall see later) through his attitude towards the great leaders of mankind, he can then find the way over from the sphere of the Moon-dwellers to the sphere of the Sun-dwellers.
The inhabitants of the Moon we already know as those Beings who once dwelt on Earth and were in close connection with it. In a very, very much earlier age this was true also of the inhabitants of the Sun; they, too, participated in earthly affairs.
On coming to the realm of the Moon-dwellers it is quite clear to a man that he is meeting Beings who once dwelt with him on Earth. And when he enters the realm of the Sun Beings, something like a powerful cosmic memory of a primeval age comes over him — an age which in Occult Science you will find described from another point of view. He is taken possession of by something like a memory of an infinitely ancient time, when the Sun, with its inhabitants, was still one with the Earth. After death, therefore, we make our way through the spiritual Cosmos by growing into, as it were, two spiritual cosmic regions where we meet those Beings with whom, at one time, when we lived on Earth as quite different beings, we were closely associated.
So it is that by going through these experiences between death and a new birth we look back in grand, mighty memories on the evolution of the Earth in the Cosmos. Whereas a man, while here on Earth, goes through only part of human evolution, between death and rebirth he goes through part of cosmic evolution, part of the evolution of the universe. Those Beings who inhabit the Sun are such that in far distant times they had already risen above the experiences possible for earthly beings, and above those possible for the Beings of the Moon.
On reaching the realm of the Sun Beings, a man enters a sphere of the highest wisdom, where he can live only if on Earth he has prepared himself sufficiently for it.
Now I said yesterday that on passing from the soul-world into the land of spirit, or, as we must express it to-day, from the sphere of the Moon-dwellers to that of the Sun-dwellers, a man proceeds more slowly in his journeyings through the Cosmos. Whereas the circling of the Moon takes about a third of his earthly lifetime, the next rounds, the circling of Mars, of Jupiter, and of Saturn — I mentioned yesterday how these rounds are not completed — takes a more leisurely course, twelve times slower than the circling of the Moon.
If now we reckon up the actual time, we arrive at the following result. We must start from the original plan decreed for human beings by the Cosmos. Then we find that a man goes through the Moon period in a third of the time he has spent on Earth. If we allow for the fact that at the beginning of life more time is spent in sleep, and add on the time given to sleep in later life, we find that a man needs approximately thirty years to accomplish the first cycle, that of the Moon. Each of the following cycles takes twelve times as long, or 36o years for each cycle. If we follow a man in his further journeying through the worlds, we find him going through three cycles. He does not reach Saturn, but has to go through the cycles in the way originally decided. He then has to go backwards through the three again. Thus he completes three cycles in an outward direction and, on returning towards his next earthly life, another three backwards, making six in all. We then have the time originally intended for man. I shall still have to speak of how things are different for human beings to-day; but according to the original cosmic decrees, the time was 2,160 years.
What do these 2,160 years signify? You have only to recall that the position of the Sun at the vernal equinox moves forward year by year. In recent centuries it has advanced from the Ram to the Fishes, and approximately in 25,920 years — or close on 26,000 years — the Sun travels round the whole zodiacal circle, and the twelfth part of this is 2,160 years. In 2,160 years the Sun progresses from one sign of the Zodiac to the next. It was originally decreed that a man should return to Earth when the Sun had thus moved on.
When we consider the inner reasons for this number, and compare it with what from I said from another point of view in Occult Science, those who have read the book will remember that the time taken by the Sun to pass from one sign of the Zodiac to the next was given there as the original length of the interval between a man's incarnations. If we look at this from two sides — more outwardly, from the cosmic aspect, as in Occult Science, and then from the side of man's inner life that we are dealing with to-day — the two numbers are identical. Such things should be noticed; and it will be found that whenever in Spiritual Science a correct judgment is made from one point of view, and then another correct judgment from a quite different point of view, the two judgments are inwardly in agreement.
Anyone judging Spiritual Science from the ordinary standpoint of to-day will quite possibly ask: “What is there to support this Spiritual Science of yours? Our natural science rests upon observation, experiment; that is the firm ground from which we start.” But one might just as well say: “As earthly man I stand on firm ground, and a rock, too, has solid ground beneath it — like everything else on Earth. As for you astronomers — it is really fantastic for you to tell us that the Earth is floating freely in celestial space. If you want to be reasonable, you must say that the Earth, like any great mass of rock, is somewhere resting on firm ground.” That is virtually the same as accusing Anthroposophy of having no firm ground to stand on. Naturally, people would appear foolish, even to themselves, were they to say that the Earth has something to rest on, but they do not see how foolish it is not to realise that Spiritual Science, which is carried by its own inner resources, just as the heavenly bodies move by their own impulses, cannot rest on the ground of experiment and explanation. Were they only to be consistent in their judgments, they would see how, in the Spiritual Science intended here, every step is made with the utmost exactitude, and full accountability is taken for every statement concerning the world and the beings of the world.
Thus, after death, a man enters a world which he at first experiences in common with souls who, like himself, have entered the spiritual worlds through the gate of death after an earthly life. A man thus grows familiar with the sphere of disembodied human beings and continues with them the earthly relations experienced spiritually at night.
But we have also seen how a man finds himself in the company of other spiritual Beings, the inhabitants of the Moon who were once dwelling with him on the Earth, and how, afterwards, he ascends to the community on the Sun. These Sun-dwellers also were once inhabitants of the Earth together with human beings, though in times far more remote. Here a man's first meeting is with the Beings who constitute the second Hierarchy, described in my Occult Science as Exusiai, Dynamis, Kyriotetes. These are the Beings with whom he has to work in order that he may be able to manifest in his next earthly life the cosmically elaborated karma derived from his earlier lives on Earth.
Having passed through the realm of the Moon-dwellers, a man knows — not with earthly thoughts but with cosmic ones — what in a cosmic sense he has done wrong; he realises the worth for cosmic evolution as a whole of all he has done, thought and felt. But he cannot prepare his new earthly life with cosmic thoughts alone. Therefore in the Moon-sphere he comes to know what he is destined to be in his next earthly existence, though the actual preparations for it cannot be made at that stage. For this, he has to rise to the sphere of the Sun, where live the Beings who, no longer having to concern themselves with earthly existence, are occupied with the affairs of our whole planetary system.
So a man's experience of the Cosmos embraces two spiritual regions, together with the spiritual Beings dwelling in them. It embraces the soul-world of the Moon-dwellers, and the more extensive population of the spirit region. Whereas the Moon-dwellers, because they were closely connected with the Earth in comparatively recent times, have united their interests with the peoples of the Earth, and while the Moon is in a sense only a cosmic colony, occupied with and orientated towards earthly affairs, the Sun-sphere, whose dwellers live under the leadership of the Exusiai, Dynamis, Kyriotetes, is a cosmic whole, concerned with the affairs of the entire planetary system — Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Venus and so on, including the Earth and the Moon.
On coming into this vast sphere of the Sun, where our interests are substantially widened, we are able to work with the Exusiai, Dynamis and Kyriotetes on preparing the spirit-germ of a physical body which can then be born for us from human parents. No parents could ever produce a suitable physical body were it not prepared during long periods through work carried out in co-operation with the highest, most sublime spiritual Beings in the spiritual Cosmos. Our essential work there — a work far greater and more comprehensive than anything achieved during our little life on Earth — is to concern ourselves, together with Beings of a higher degree, with all that takes place among these Beings as spiritual events, just as here there are natural events; with all that takes place in them as art of the spirit, just as here we have the art of nature. All this finally enables us to bring together what has thus been worked upon into a great, spiritual, archetypal picture which is the spirit-germ — as it were the fore-shadowing — of what will later be born on Earth as our physical body.
When a man, having completed the three circles, starts on the return journey, his interest in earthly affairs revives. Then — still many years before birth — he looks down on the successive generations in earthly evolution, at the end of which will stand his father and his mother. As soon as he makes this complete change of direction in the Cosmos, he begins to focus his attention upon the Earth. He watches many preceding generations of his ancestry, one after another, until, centuries later, his parents are born. To them he can send down the potent, far-reaching spirit-germ, diminished in size, of his future physical body, so that this spirit-germ can be united with the physical embryo in the body of the mother.
The spirit-germ is at first majestic and great, like the Cosmos itself. While a man is making his return journey to the physical world, and watching the generations through which his parents descend, and while from the spiritual world he is actively concerned with this sequence of generations, the germ becomes smaller and smaller — until at last it arrives back in the Mars-sphere, the actual sphere of the Sun, and then, passing quickly through the Moon-sphere, it descends to its next life on Earth.
Some time before the man himself descends as a being of soul, he sends down in advance this spirit-germ, so that what he has prepared for his physical body enters the physical world before him. On completing his work for the new earthly life, he is able to enter into a different relation with the cosmos — a relation indeed to the whole cosmic ether. And, as the final act in his descent, he draws from spiritual worlds, out of the whole world-ether, the forces to form his etheric body.
When a man has already sent down the spirit-germ for his physical body — that is, when the spirit-germ has at last descended to the parents at the end of its long journey down from the spiritual world — the man himself, still in the spiritual world, gathers ether around him there, and for a short time becomes a being of Ego, astral body and ether, the ether having been drawn together from the world-ether. It is not until after conception, during the third or fourth week of the embryonic period, that the human being unites himself with the organism that has been formed by combining the spirit-germ with the physical germ, and bestows upon it the etheric body drawn from the world-ether. Man then becomes a being composed of physical body, an etheric body drawn together in the last moments of his cosmic existence, and the astral body and Ego which have gone through the life between death and rebirth.
Thus, after experiencing the purely spiritual, a man descends to yet another existence in the physical world.
From what has been said you will have gathered that while passing through life in the world between death and a new birth, we experience in memory past ages of the Earth's evolution — the evolution of worlds, one might call it. The world-memories thus lived through become a man's deeds, for he does something with these memories, in cooperation with the higher Beings of whom I have already spoken and will speak further. What he carries out, while active in memory and remembering in activity, gives a significant perspective into the past of the Earth and of the world.
The experiences he goes through while in connection with the inhabitants of the Moon conjures up in his soul a time during which he passed through earlier lives on Earth in a similar relation to them as now. He surveys a series of earthly lives resembling those of the present. He then looks further back to a time when, even while on Earth, he was more closely connected with the present dwellers on the Moon; to a time from which he is separated by what geologists call the Ice Age. He looks back to a phase in earthly evolution you will find described in my books as the Atlantean age. But he penetrates still further back to what is called the age of Lemuria, when man is still to be found on Earth, though under quite different conditions. He was not yet so closely bound to the Earth that he trod it with his feet; he lived more as an etheric being in the environment of the Earth, in its atmosphere. This he could do because at that time the atmosphere consisted mainly of a watery solution that has now been distributed between seas and continents, together with solutions of other substances that have since become the solid earth of to-day. Hence he lived more in the Earth's circumference during the age — here again names are unimportant — called the Lemurian, which corresponds to what natural scientists call, with some justification, the oldest period of the Earth.
We then look back to an age when man was still associated with the Sun Beings, with the inhabitants of the Sun, before in the course of cosmic evolution the Sun separated from the Earth. This does not mean looking back to an age when, as described in Occult Science, the Earth itself went through its Sun period — the second age in the evolution of the Earth — but to the recapitulation in earthly existence of that cosmic age. But this recapitulation does come into view. And so a man's knowledge, when supplemented by what he is able to experience between death and a new birth, becomes cosmological knowledge. Earth-evolution advances through repeated stages, in conjunction with the results of human deeds carried out together with higher Beings. The Earth's past, in its connection with the whole planetary system — Sun, Moon, and all the planets dependent on them — becomes apparent in the deeds of men. Out of it a man shapes the part of the future for which he is responsible — his next earthly life. At the same time, however, he is involved in the preparation of future worlds, the Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan existences, for into each of these in turn the Earth existence will eventually be transformed.
If we look deeply into such matters, we can understand how ancient cosmic times were part of the world-evolution of the Earth. We look back indeed into an age when the Moon-dwellers of to-day provided the instructors of mankind. Then, together with the latest great instructors, they withdrew into the cosmic stronghold of the Moon.
Over and over again on Earth, however, men were born with the capacity to remain throughout their karmic life in close connection with the experiences of those who now dwell on the Moon. Born again and again in the course of world-evolution, they were like ambassadors of the great community within the Moon. They appeared among the people of the Earth during the first, second and third postAtlantean culture-epochs and in the East they developed a lofty civilisation. These ambassadors of the Moon were called Bodhisattvas. They dwelt on Earth as men, but in them lived on the spiritual teaching that had been given directly by the great Moon teachers on Earth.
Now there are often times in the universe when the inhabitants of the Moon, because they are more nearly connected with the inhabitants of the Sun than with those of the Earth, develop a particularly intimate relation with these Sun-dwellers, so that, indirectly, through the Moon ambassadors — called in the East the Bodhisattvas — the wisdom of the Sun was able to reach men on Earth in the older oriental civilisations. Because of the progress made in the evolution of the Earth, it then became necessary that earthly civilisation should no longer be nourished, as it were, by the Moon Beings only. The whole evolution of the Earth would have had to take a course different from the one prescribed by cosmic wisdom, if only the Moon ambassadors had figured in it. For this reason there came about the great, momentous event we call the Mystery of Golgotha.
Whereas in more ancient times it was the Moon ambassadors who, to a certain extent, brought the Sun wisdom to Earth, it was the Leader of the Sun Beings Himself, foremost in the ranks of Sun Spirits, who, through the Mystery of Golgotha, came down to Earth into the body of the man Jesus. Through this, quite different conditions arose for the evolution of the Earth. The wisdom of the Sun-dwellers was brought into it as impulse by Christ Jesus; and under this impulse the further course of Earth-evolution must therefore proceed.
At the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, so much Moon wisdom was still spread over the whole Earth that as Gnosis, as Pistis Sophia — which was old Moon wisdom — it was able to understand the nature of the Christ. Gnosis was essentially an endeavour to grasp His whole spiritual significance. But Gnosis has been entirely rooted out. In the phase of evolution which led to a temporary lack of understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha, the first act was the rooting out of the Gnosis — down, almost, to the very writings of its opponents.
Imagine that nothing were left of our present Anthroposophy except what its opponents have written about it, and this will give you some idea of what people know of Gnosis from external sources. Their knowledge is limited to the opinions of its opponents, perhaps to some acquaintance with the Pistis Sophia and so on, which they don't understand. That is all they know of the Gnosis, which is indeed a gift of the Moon, out of the past, to the first centuries of Christianity — particularly the first four centuries, for after that it was no longer understood. It was what could be said out of the old Moon wisdom, out of the Moon Logos, to the Sun Logos who had come to Earth — said, that is, to the Christ. Anyone aware of this can really understand the Gnosis, which has been greatly misjudged, and of which such strange things are said to-day.
It is not possible, however, for matters to remain thus, for the evolution of the Earth must continue. We have to progress from the old wisdom of the Moon to a new Sun wisdom, for which we must learn to have an immediate understanding. To-morrow I shall have to describe how it was essentially the old Moon wisdom — after it had come virtually to an end — which still spoke to human beings through a form of Yoga breathing, through a changed breathing process. It was a striving after the old wisdom of the Moon.
This Yoga cult is no longer suitable for Western people; they must attain to Imagination. For civilisation in general, that is the necessary next step — the endeavour to come to Imagination. But there are all sorts of obstacles, and this means that the evolution of human civilisation can advance only if a new impulse from the spirit is accepted. This depends on intimate human destinies. When Bodhisattvas appeared, they never found people generally hostile. Those ancient times may often appear to us outwardly as gruesome and terrible, but it was always possible to meet with good will when bringing impulses from the spiritual worlds. Hence the Bodhisattvas found men ready to receive the old Moon Logos — the reflection, that is, of the Sun Logos. But it will never again be possible to speak to mankind in that old way.
The old Moon wisdom, the old Moon Logos, however, cannot cease — like everything else, it has to progress. But it will have to be understood through the Sun Word, which, having lost its last legacy in the Gnosis, must be re-discovered. It will be impossible to speak to people in the true language of the Sun until they bring good will to meet it. Until they do so, they will wait in vain for the coming of a successor to the Bodhisattvas of old, for that depends upon whether human beings welcome him with understanding.
To-day there is a deep rift between the humanity of the East and the humanity of the West. And those who do not go deeply enough into these matters cannot see how East and West are divided, and how the East is waiting for the new Bodhisattva to bring them in his own way something of which the West has only the vaguest idea. The nationalistic struggles of to-day have not yet been sufficiently overcome throughout the Earth by the universal consciousness which must flow essentially from the Christ impulse. Men will never discover how to rise to this common humanity, this genuine Christ impulse, and will never be able to understand what a potential Bodhisattva would have to say, until they have developed enough spiritual longing in them to create a bridge for a world-wide understanding between East and West.
I am touching here on a theme we must go further into to-morrow — a theme that will show how different the present time is from the days when man waited expectantly for the coming of a Bodhisattva. Now, before the Bodhisattva can speak to men, he has himself to wait until they are ready to understand the words he will use, for men have now entered the epoch of freedom.
This entry into the epoch of freedom, in relation to our present theme, will be a subject for to-morrow. But all that mankind has to go through, in order to find the innermost impulse in the spiritual world above, is connected with many apparently insignificant cultural systems and symptoms of our civilisation.
Forgive me for intermingling the great with the trivial, but trivial symptoms can sometimes throw light on the great. A few days ago I said that in this region, where Imaginations take so firm a hold on the spirit, we get the disturbance of motor-cars. I added that I was not saying anything against motor-cars, for in Anthroposophy we cannot express reactionary views, and when necessary I am obviously very fond of travelling by car myself. One must take the world as it is. But anything one-sided must always be balanced by its opposite. Thus there is no harm in motoring — provided we take it, and everything of that kind, with a heart attuned to the spiritual world. Then, if other things besides cars come to disturb us, we shall be able to press on by dint of our own strength and freedom, for freedom had to come, and it must lead us back to the Bodhisattva.
Human beings will be able to help themselves, where things are concerned that do us good service mechanically. It can truly be said that men will be able to help themselves in face of what comes upon them in the way of cars, typewriters, and so on.
With gramophones, however, it is different — forgive me for concluding on such an apparently trivial note. With gramophones, art is being thrust down into a machine. When people develop a passion for such a thing — which is really a mechanising of what comes down to us as a shadow of the spiritual — when they show enthusiasm for the kind of thing represented by gramophones, then in this connection they no longer have the power to help themselves. At this point the Gods have to help.
Now the Gods are merciful, and to-day our hope for the future progress of human civilisation must be that the Gods in their mercy will themselves come to the rescue where — as in the case of the gramophone — men's taste has gone astray.