The Evolution of the Earth and Man and The Influence of the Stars
Dornach, 3rd July, 1924
Rudolf Steiner: Good morning, gentlemen! Today I would like to speak further about the creation of the earth and the origin of man. It has surely become clear from what I have already said that the earth was originally not what it is today, but was a kind of living being.
I described the condition that existed before our actual Earth condition by saying that warmth, air, and water were there but as yet no really solid mineral structures. Now you must not imagine that the water existing at that time looked like the present water. Our present water has become what it is by the separation of certain substances which were formerly dissolved in it. If you take a glass of ordinary water and put some salt in it, the salt dissolves in the water and you get a fluid-a salt solution, as one calls it-which is denser than the original water. If you put your fingers in it, it feels much denser than water. Now dissolved salt is relatively thin; with certain other substances one gets quite a thickish liquid.
The fluid condition, the water condition which existed in earlier ages of our earth was therefore not that of today's water. That did not exist, for substances were dissolved in the water everywhere. All the substances that you have today-the Jura limestone mountains, for instance-were dissolved; harder rocks that you can't scratch with a knife (limestone can always be scratched) were also dissolved in the water. During this Old Moon stage, therefore, one has to do with a thickish fluid that contained in solution all the substances which today are solid.
The thin water of today, which consists essentially of hydrogen and oxygen, was separated off later; it has developed only during the earth period itself. Thus we have as an original condition of the earth a densified fluid, and round about it a kind of air. But this was not the air of today; just as the water was not like our present water, so the air was not the same as our present air. Our present air contains essentially oxygen and nitrogen; the other substances which it still contains are present to a very slight degree. There are even metals still present in the air, but in exceedingly small quantities. For instance, there is one metal, sodium, that is everywhere in the air. Just think what that means — that sodium is everywhere, that a substance which is in the salt on your table is present everywhere in tiny quantities.
There are two substances — one is the sodium which I have just mentioned, which is present in small quantities in the air; then there is a substance of a gaseous nature which plays a great role when you bleach your laundry: chlorine. It causes the bleaching. Now the salt on your table is composed of sodium and chlorine, a combination of the two. Such things come about in nature.
You can ask how one knows that sodium is everywhere. It is possible today to tell from a flame what sort of substance is being burnt in it. For instance, you can get sodium in a metallic form and pulverize it and hold it in a flame. You can then find with an instrument called a spectroscope that there is a yellow line in it. There is another metal, for example, called lithium; if you hold that in the flame, you get a red line; the yellow is now not there, but there is a red line. One can prove with the spectroscope what substance is present.
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But you get the yellow sodium line in almost every flame whenever you light one, without having put the sodium in yourself. Thus sodium is still in the air today. In earlier times immense quantities of metals and even of sulphur were present in the air. The air was quite saturated with sulphur. So there was a thickish water — if one had not been especially heavy one could have gone for a walk on it; it was like running tar — and there was a dense air, so dense that one could not have breathed in it with our present lungs. These were only formed later. The mode of life of the creatures that existed at that time was utterly different.
Now you must picture to yourselves that the earth once looked like this. (See drawing.) Had you found yourself there with your present eyes, you would not have discovered the stars and sun and moon out there, for you would have looked out into a vague ocean of air which reached an end eventually. If one could have lived then with the present sense organs, one would have seemed to be inside a world-egg beyond which one could see nothing. And you can imagine how different the earth looked at that time, like a kind of giant egg yolk, a thick fluid, and a thick air environment corresponding to the white of the present-day egg.
If you picture concretely what I have described, you will have to say: Well, beings such as we have today could not have lived at that time. Naturally, creatures like the elephant, and even human beings in their present form, would have sunk — nor could they have breathed. And because they could not have breathed, there were also no lungs as we know them now. Organs are formed entirely according to the function they are needed for. It is very interesting that an organ is simply not there if it is not needed. And so lungs only developed when the air was no longer so full of sulphur and metals as it had been in those ancient times.
Now to get an idea of what sort of creatures lived at that time, we must first look for those that lived in the thickish water. Creatures lived in that dense water that no longer exist today. Our present fish have their form because the water is thin. Even sea-water is comparatively thin; it contains much salt in solution, yet it is comparatively thin. But in that early time every possible substance was dissolved in the dense fluid, the dense ocean, of which, in fact, the whole earth, the Moon-sack consisted.
The creatures that were in it could not swim in our sense, because the water was too thick; nor could they walk, for one needs firm ground for walking. You can imagine that these creatures had a bodily structure somewhere between what one needs for swimming-fins — and what one needs for walking — feet. You know, of course, what a fin looks like — it has quite fine, spiky bones and the flesh in between is dried-up. So that we have a fin with practically no flesh on it and prickly bones transformed to spikes: that is a fin. Limbs that are suitable for moving forward on firm ground, that is, for walking or crawling, have their bones set into the interior and the outer bulk of flesh covers them. We can conceive of such limbs that have the flesh outside and the bones inside; there the bulk of flesh is the main thing. That belongs to walking, or swimming.
But at that time there was neither walking nor swimming, but something in between. These creatures therefore had limbs in which there was something of a thorn-like, nature, but also something like joints. They were really quite ingenious joints, and in between, the flesh mass was stretched out like an umbrella. You still see many swimming creatures today with a “swim skin” — a web — between the bones, and they are the last relics of what once existed in vast numbers. Creatures existed which stretched out their limbs so that the spreading flesh mass was supported by the dense fluid. And they had joints in their limbs — the fishes today have none — and with these they could direct their half-swimming, half-walking.
So we are made aware of animals which particularly needed such limbs. Today the limbs would look immensely coarse and clumsy; they were not fins, not feet, not hands, but clumsy appendages on the body, thoroughly appropriate for living in that thick fluid. This was one kind of animal. If we want to describe them further, we must say: They were especially organized in the parts of the body where these immense limbs could arise. All the rest of them was poorly developed. If you look at the toads and similar creatures existing today which sort of swim in the thick fluid of boggy marshes, then you have a feeble, shrunken reminder of the gigantic animals which lived once upon a time, which were heavy and clumsy but had diminutive heads like turtles.
Other creatures lived in the dense air. Our present birds have had to acquire what they need to live in our thin air; they have had to develop something of a lung nature. But the creatures that lived at that time in the air had no lungs; in that dense sulphurous air it would not have been possible to breathe with lungs. They absorbed the air as a kind of food. They could not have eaten in the present way, for it would all have remained lying in the stomach. Nor was there anything solid there to eat. All that they took in as food they took in out of the densified air. Into what did they take it? Well, they took it into what developed in them especially.
Now the flesh masses that existed in those so to say, gliding creatures (for they were not really walking and not really swimming), could not be used by the air-creatures, for these had to support themselves in the air, not swim in the dense fluid. It came about then that the flesh masses which had developed in the gliding, half-swimming creatures became adapted to the sulphurous condition of the air. The sulphur dried up these flesh masses and made them into what you see today as the birds' feathers. With this flesh mass or dried-up tissue the creatures could form the limbs they needed. They were not wings in the present sense, but they supported them in the air, and were something similar to the wings of today. They were very, very different in one respect: there is only one thing remaining from these wing-like structures, and that is moulting, when our present birds lose their feathers. These former creatures supported themselves in the dense air with the structures that were not yet feathers but rather dried-up tissue.
Moreover, these structures were actually half for breathing and half for taking in nourishment. What existed in the air environment was absorbed. These organs were not used for flying; these rudimentary “wings” were for absorbing the air and pushing it away. Today only moulting is left of this process. At that time, these structures served for taking in nourishment, that is, the bird puffed up its tissue with what it absorbed from the air and then gave out again what it did not need. So such a bird had a very remarkable structure indeed!
And so at that time there lived those terribly clumsy creatures below in the water-element — our present turtles are indeed fine princes by comparison! And above were these remarkable creatures. And whereas our present birds sometimes behave in the air unmannerly (which we take very much amiss), these bird-like creatures in the air of that time excreted continuously. What came from them rained down, and rained down especially at certain times. The creatures below did not yet have the attitude which we have. We are indignant if sometimes a bird behaves in an unseemly way. But those creatures below in the fluid element were not displeased; they sucked up into their own bodies what fell down from above. That was the fructifying process at that time. That was the only way in which these creatures which had originated there could continue to live. In those ages there was no definite coming forth of one animal from another, as we have now. One might say that actually these creatures lived a long time; they kept renewing themselves. One could call it a sort of world-moulting; the animals down below kept rejuvenating themselves again and again.
On the other hand, to the creatures above came what was developed by those below and this again was a fructification. Reproduction was at that time of a very different nature; it went on in the whole earth-body. The upper world fructified the lower, the lower world fructified the upper. The whole earth-body was alive. One could say that the creatures below and the creatures above were like maggots in a body-where the whole body is alive and the maggots in it are alive too. It was one life, and the various beings lived in a completely living body.
But later something occurred of very special importance. The condition I have described could have gone on for a long time; all could have remained as it was without becoming our present earth. The heavy, clumsy creatures could have continued to inhabit the living earth together with the creatures able to live in the air. But one day something happened. It happened that one day from this living earth, let me say, a young one, an offspring, was formed and went out into cosmic space. It came about in this way: a small protuberance developed, which wore away (see drawing) and at last split off. And a body was now out in the universe which had, instead of the earlier conditions, the surrounding air inside and the thick fluid outside. Thus an inverted body was separated off. Whereas the Moon-earth remained with thick fluid for its inner nucleus and thickish air outside, a body split off which now had the thicker substance outside and the thinner inside. And if one investigates the matter without prejudice, in honest research, one can recognize in this body the present moon. Today just as one can find sodium in the air, one can also learn the exact constituents of the moon, and so one can know that the moon was once in the earth. What circles round us out there was formerly within the earth, then separated off and went out into the cosmos.
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With this a complete change took place, not only in what separated itself off but also in the earth itself. Above all, the earth lost certain substances, and for the first time the mineral element could be formed in the earth. If the moon-substances had remained in the earth, minerals could never have been formed, and there would always have been a state of moving fluid. The departure of the moon brought death for the first time to the earth and with it the dead mineral kingdom. But with this came also the possibility for the present plants, present animals and man in his present form to develop.
We can say, therefore, that out of the Old Moon arose the present earth together with the mineral kingdom. And now all forms had to alter. For with the departure of the moon the air became less sulphurous, approaching nearer to the present condition, and what had been dissolved in the fluid was now thrown out, forming mountain-like masses. The water grew more and more like our present water. On the other hand the moon, which has around it what we have in the interior of the earth, produced a thickish, horny mass on the outside. This is what we see when we look up. It is not like our mineral kingdom, but it is as if our mineral kingdom had become horn-like and turned into glass. It is extraordinarily hard, harder than anything horn-like that we have on earth, but it is not quite mineral. Hence the peculiar shape of the moon mountains; they actually all look like horns that have been fastened on. They are formed in such a way that one can even perceive what had been organic in them, what had once been a part of life.
Beginning with the separation of the moon, our present minerals were gradually deposited from the former dense fluid. Particularly active was a substance that in those ancient times existed in great amounts and consisted of silica and oxygen — we call it silicic acid. One has the idea that an acid must be fluid, because that is the form in which it is used today. But the acid which I mean here and which is a genuine acid is extremely hard and firm. It is, in fact, quartz! The quartz which you find in the high mountains is silicic acid. And when it is whitish and like glass it is pure silicic acid. If it contains other substances you get the quartz — or flint — that looks violet, and so on. That comes from the substances contained in it.
But the quartz which is so hard today that you can't scratch it with a knife, and if you hit your head on it, it would make a real hole in your head — this same quartz was dissolved in those ancient times, either in the thick fluid or in the finer surroundings of dense air. In addition to the sulphur there was an immense amount of dissolved quartz in the thick air around the earth. You can get an idea of the strong influence this dissolved silicic acid had at that time if you reflect on the composition of the earth today just here where we live. Of course you can say: There must be a great deal of oxygen, because we need it for breathing. Yes, there is a good deal of oxygen: 28 to 29% of the whole mass of the earth. But you must count everything. Oxygen is in the air and in many solid substances on the earth too; it is in the plants and animals. And if you put all this together it is 28% of the whole.
But silica, which when united with oxygen in the quartz gives silicic acid, is 48 to 49%! Think what that means: half of all that surrounds us and that we need, almost half of that is silica! When everything was fluid, when the air was almost fluid before it thickened — yes, then this silica played an enormous role, it was very important in that original condition. Nowadays these things are not understood rightly because concerning man's finer organization, people no longer have the right idea. They think today in a casual, crude way: Well, we're humans and we have to breathe. We breathe oxygen in and we breathe carbon dioxide out. We can't live if we don't breathe like this. But silica is still always contained in the air we inhale, genuine silica, tiny quantities of silica. Plenty is available, for 48 to 49% of our surroundings are made up of silica.
When we breathe, the oxygen goes down to the metabolism and unites with carbon, but at the same time it also goes up to the senses and the brain, to the nervous system: it goes everywhere. There it unites with the silica and forms silicic acid in us. If we look at a human being we see he has lungs and is inhaling air, that means, he is taking in oxygen. Below, the oxygen unites with carbon and forms carbon dioxide which he then exhales. But above, the silica is united in us with the oxygen and goes up into our head, as silicic acid — however, it does not become as solid up there as quartz. That, of course, would be a bad business if pure quartz crystals showed up inside your head — then instead of hair you would have quartz crystals, which perhaps would be quite beautiful and amusing! Still, that is not entirely fantasy — for there is a good deal of silicic acid in our hair, only it is still fluid, not crystallized. In fact, not only hair but practically everything in the nerves and senses contains silicic acid.
One discovers this when one first gets to know the beneficial, healing effects of silicic acid; it is tremendously helpful as a remedy. You must realize that the food received through the mouth into the stomach must pass through all manner of intermediate things before it comes up into the head, the eye, the ear, and so forth. That is a long way for the nourishment to go, and it needs helping forces to enable it to come up at all. It might be — in fact, it happens often — that a person has not enough helping forces and the foods do not work up properly into the head; then one must prescribe silicic acid which assists the nourishment to rise to the head and the senses. As soon as one sees that a patient is normal as regards stomach and intestines, but that the digestion does not go all the way to the sense organs, the head, or the skin, one must administer a silicic acid preparation as remedy. There one sees, in fact, what a very great role silicic acid still plays today in the human organism.
In that ancient condition of the earth, the silicic acid was not yet inhaled but was absorbed. The bird-like creatures in particular took it in. They absorbed it as they absorbed the sulphur, with the consequence that they became almost entirely sense organs. Just as we have silicic acid to thank for our sense organs, so at that time the earth as a whole owed its bird-like species to the working of the silicic acid that was present everywhere. Since, however, this did not come in the same way to those other creatures with the clumsy limbs, since the silicic acid reached those creatures less as they glided along in the dense fluid, they became in the main stomach- and digestion-creatures. There above in those days were terribly nervous creatures, aware of everything with a fine nervous sensitivity. On the other hand, those below in the thick fluid were of immense sagacity, but also of immense phlegmatism. They felt nothing of it; they were mere feeding-creatures, were really only an abdomen with clumsy limbs. The birds above were finely organized, were almost entirely sense organs. And indeed they were sense organs for the earth itself, so that it was not only filled with life but it perceived everything through these sense organs that were in the air, the fore-runners of our birds.
I tell you all this so that you may see how different everything once looked on the earth. All that was dissolved at that time became deposits later in the solid mineral mountains, the rock masses, and formed a kind of bony scaffolding. Only then was it possible for man and animal to form solid bones. For when externally the bony framework of the earth was formed, then bones began to form also inside the higher animals and man. What I have spoken of before was not yet firm, hard bone as we have today, but flexible, horn-like cartilage as it has still remained in the fish. All these things have in a certain way remained behind and atrophied, for in the earlier ages which I have described the life-conditions for them were there, but today the necessary life-conditions are no longer present.
We can say, therefore: In our modern birds we have the successors of the bird-like species which existed above in the dense air full of sulphur and silicic acid but now transformed and adapted to the present air. And in the amphibians of today, the crawling creatures, in the frogs and toads, but also in the chameleon, the snake, and so forth, we have the successors of the creatures that were swimming at that time in the dense fluid. The higher mammals and man in his present form came later.
Now this makes an apparent contradiction: I said to you last time that man was there first. But he lived in the warmth purely as soul and spirit; he was indeed already present in all that I have described, but not as a physical being. He was there in a very fine body in which he could support himself equally in the air and in the dense fluid. And neither he nor the higher mammals were visible as yet; only the heavy creatures and the bird-like air-creatures were visible. That is what must be distinguished when one says that man was already there. He was first of all, before even the air was there, but he was invisible, and he was still in an invisible state when the earth looked as I have now described. The moon had first to separate from the earth, then man could deposit mineral elements in himself, could form a mineral bony system, could develop such substances as protein, and so forth, in his muscles. At that time such substances did not as yet exist. Nevertheless, man has completely preserved in his present corporeal nature the legacy of those earlier times.
For the human being cannot now come into existence without the moon influence, coming now only from outside. Reproduction is connected with the moon, though no longer directly. It can therefore be seen that what is connected with reproduction — the woman's monthly periods — take their course in the same rhythmical periods as the phases of the moon, only they no longer coincide; they have freed themselves. But the moon influence has remained active in human reproduction.
We have found reproduction accomplished between the beings of the dense air and those of the dense fluid, between the bird-like race and the ancient giant amphibians. They mutually fructified one another because the moon was still within the earth. As soon as the moon was outside, fructification had to come from outside, because the fructifying principle lies in the moon.
We will continue from this point on Saturday (see Note 3) at nine o'clock — if we can have that hour. The question put by Herr Dollinger is one that must be answered in detail, and if you have patience you will see how present-day life emerges from all the gradual preparatory conditions. The whole subject is indeed difficult to understand. But I believe one can understand if one looks at things in the way we have been looking.