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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Knowledge of Soul and Spirit
GA 56

XIII. Outset and End of the Earth

9 April 1908, Berlin

The human being is distinguished from the other beings on earth because he does not arrange his life only according to vague, instinctive impulses, but to clear ideas and thoughts to get strength, power and certainty for his work if he is able to look not only at the present, but to determine his future out of ideas or ideals independently. The human being attains that only if he is able to survey life in its entirety. We learn from the past; we work for the future best of all if we anticipate in our ideas and ideals what we want to do in the future.

It could seem now that the today's topic Outset and End of the Earth extends too far to the past and to the future, as if we wanted to deal with ideas that hover high over our everyday existence. However, the philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte already said a right word against those people who turn against ideas and ideals out of their ostensible life praxis because they think that the practitioners of life have no use for ideals and ideas. Speaking about the great ideals and about the determination of the human being to his Jena students, he coined the nice words against those people: we, as idealists, know as well as the practitioners, maybe better, that the ideals are not directly applicable in the real life. However, if they want to state that life — if it should be practical — must not be arranged according to ideas and ideals, they show only that one does not count on them in the further evolution. Hence, a benevolent god may give them rain and sunshine at the right time, the necessary food and, as far as I am concerned, clever thoughts, too.

If we look back at the becoming of our earth, then the present human being thinks of the miraculous, immense achievements of the scientific thinking at first, of course. As well as already at other opportunities I want to emphasise also here that it can never be the task of spiritual science — if it understands itself correctly — to argue anything against the justified findings and results of the modern natural sciences. Therefore, allow me to say first something, before we tackle this enclosing issue from the spiritual-scientific point of view, also here again as with other considerations.

What has the modern science to say about our today's issue? I want to answer to the question only briefly and sketchily. — The natural sciences reveal the earthly past with great, enclosing astuteness. They conclude from that what the earth is now, from that what we have as remains of extinct worlds and beings how it has looked once on our earth maybe millions of years ago, and which beings walked on it. You know, history, the historical documents lead us only a short time back in the evolution, some millennia only. Then it becomes dark, so to speak, if one wants to count only on the historical documents. A second time leads us back to that what could not be committed to the written documents, also not to other documents, what our ancestors gave their dead to their graves as burial objects of their culture that they manufactured and that stayed behind as remains. Then, however, the natural sciences go back even further.

They show which beings lived successively on our earth based on the skeletons and other remains of primeval plants and animals that are included in the layers of our earth. One can easily realise that that what lies in the upper layers of our earth has found its grave at last, that that what lies in the deeper layers which were covered by later ones must contain the documentary remains of older, former times. Admittedly, it is not so easy to do research scientifically in this way. Geology has some difficulties. For that, what has been stacked within the earth surface has not so remained, as it has been stacked originally. Overburdens, faults, any possible mixture of the whole have taken place, so that sometimes that what lay originally at the bottom have come with the faults at the top. A great astuteness is necessary to get an idea of the earthly evolution from that what the layers of our earth enclose.

We do not want to go more into details than the spiritual researcher can justify in this respect; we also do not want to explain in detail what we would have to say from the spiritual-scientific point of view. There is still something to be corrected. However, we do not want to get ourselves into it. On the contrary, we prefer to accept thankfully as a great achievement for humanity what the industrious natural sciences have observed and the scientific astuteness has performed in this field. We would like to think ourselves back to a former state of the earth with the physical research where our earth looked very different for the most part from today, where the simplest living beings must have lived no remains of which were preserved. We pursue the development of our earth of the layers and remains that lie at the bottom and at the top. We find there simple animals, which are subordinate to the vertebrates, to those which have a skeleton.

We go on and see how the various animal classes and plant classes develop gradually, as well as they seem to appear on the changing earth gradually. We go back with the naturalist to the time when in our earth evolution fish appear. Many of them have quite different forms than the today's ones. If we go back further, we come to a strange developmental phase of our earth when those monstrous, miraculous animals that belong partly to the amphibians and reptiles inhabited it. These animals were gigantic, whose eyes were maybe as big as a child head, they were provided with huge teeth, animals that one calls ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs etc. and whose remains are excavated in the most different regions of the earth from the Cretaceous layer, the Jurassic layer. There we come to the time when more perfect plants have originated, in a relatively young time, although it comprises millennia. We arrive at that time when in scientific view the human being appeared, when he appears for the first time on our earth, so to speak, according to the documents that the concerning layers contain, after the higher mammals, related to him, had preceded him. Briefly, we use that picture again which we already used recently when I talked about sun, moon, and earth, and imagine anyone could observe the evolution from a seat in space for millions of years. He would see the surface of the earth forming, the distribution of water and earth, conditions of cold and heat changing, the various classes and forms of plants and animals appearing, and the physical picture would be the same for such a hypothetical observer as natural sciences describe it.

But again I emphasise that one cannot go on from spiritual science farther than, so to speak, up to the point where the natural sciences themselves will be obliged to correct the things in the future. Where does a conflict exist between the natural sciences and spiritual science now? One says repeatedly from the natural sciences, spiritual science does not stand on scientific ground. Can one stand more on scientific ground than to admit that everything that the natural sciences knows and can recognise also finds recognition with us?

However, there are people who say, they firmly stand on the ground of the scientific facts. They demand from the spiritual scientist that he should know nothing else than what they themselves know. They do not demand only that one concedes to them what they themselves say, but they also demand that one subjects to the dogma that one cannot say more than they say. These people do not notice at all that such inner intolerance was never there in the entire human development, also not in the times when the outer intolerance went far. Indeed, as we said already last time considering the sun, moon and stars: the outer sensuous picture gives no cause for quarrel between spiritual science and the natural sciences. — However, does result from this outer sensuous sight that behind the sensuous, behind the physical no extrasensory, supraphysical forces are effective? We could bring in the Plateau experiment already last time where one shows how a world system originates in microcosm in a liquid from an oil drop by rotation with a crank. However, the good man did completely forget that he himself turned the crank! He did not consider at all that this is quite impossible without the thoughts of that who turns the crank.

What one sees with the physical eyes is the outer expression, the outer process of that which happens internal-spiritually and what the human being can never get to know looking at the world only with his eyes and their ancillary tools, only with the outer physical tools. However, if we want to look back, to the physical beginning of the world and do not look at the physical only, then we have to imagine the true nature of the human being first. Someone who looks from the spiritual-scientific viewpoint at this true nature of the human being to whom the human being disintegrates, as I have often stressed, in a number of members. Above all the spiritual science shows us that the true reason of those varying states, which the human being experiences every day within 24 hours between wakening and sleeping, that a part of the human members separates from the other part in sleep. We see every night when the human being falls asleep sinking down in dreamless sleep, in an uncertain darkness what surged up and down as most manifold pictures and impressions in the soul during the day. We see everything sinking down that lives in the human being as instincts, desires, and passions, as joy, sorrow and pain. For somebody who stands on the ground of spiritual science, of course, also for everybody with common sense it would be a big folly if one wanted to assert that with falling asleep the bearer of joy and sorrow, of desires and passions would disappear and would rise again in the morning. Spiritual science shows that — when the human being lies in the dreamless sleep in his bed — only the physical body lies there connected with the etheric body. He has the physical body in common with the lifeless beings around him and the etheric body in common with the plants.

Two other members are lifted out from the human being in the dreamless sleep. Joy and sorrow, desires and passions, all sensations surging up and down, all that is quiet at night. The astral body is their bearer, and this is lifted out in the dreamless sleep from the physical and etheric bodies that stay behind in the bed. The astral body and the ego are lifted out.

By which does the existence of the astral body differ at night from its existence during the day? We can understand this remembering that the astral body has its reality outdoors in another world that is round it. I have explained that in other series of these talks. What does it depend on that one perceives anything? There can be countless worlds round you, the world of the tones, the world of the light, the world of the smells, the world of the tastes etc., if you had no senses for them, these worlds would not be there for you. It is the most illogical what one can do — however, the majority of the present human beings does it — to assert that a world which one does not perceive is not there. Spiritual science shows that the human astral body is lifted out at night in the dreamless sleep from the physical and etheric bodies and lives in another world; not in a transcendent, somewhere concealed world, but in a world that penetrates us, as light and air penetrate the space. For the spiritual-scientific observation that world differs from the physical-sensuous one only by the fact that it requires other organs with which one can perceive it.

This astral body is in a spiritual world that is in our environment as the air is round us. Who still has no idea of the fact that air is round him, says, it is nothing round him. Someone says this who has no idea of the fact that he lives perpetually in spirit, and means that there is no spirit in our surroundings, that no spiritual facts, no spiritual beings are there. The astral body, the bearer of desire and pain, is in this spiritual world at night. It does not perceive it because it does not yet have organs in the present evolution, no cognitive ability for this world in which it is.

It could appear like a hypothesis if one says that there is an astral body and the human being is in the dreamless sleep in a spiritual world except his physical and etheric bodies. But apart from the fact that somebody whose spiritual eyes are opened by initiation knows the astral body separated from the physical body by own observation and own experience, one can show, so to speak, experimentally that such an astral body exists, even if not with usual instruments. For the only instrument, which makes clear the secrets of the higher, supersensible world to the human being, which really leads him in the spiritual world, is the human being himself. This instrument, the human being, is capable of an infinite perfection, an infinitely subtle development, and just the initiation perfects the human being. It delivers to that who wants to apply it to himself, so to speak, the experimental evidence of an astral body that can become independent of the physical body.

Let us recall some of the viewpoints that we have discussed in the talk on the initiation. We have said there that the human being can do certain exercises of meditation, of contemplation according to particular methodical instructions by which he makes his worlds of thought, feeling and will-impulses stronger and stronger than feelings and will-impulses can be strengthened by any outer sensory observation. There are just such instructions as we have heard in the talk on initiation by which the human being can gain more than he gains by the mere outer observation of the reality. Something particular appears in a human soul which applies the instructions to itself. It appears that really the astral body receives spiritual eyes and ears by the subtle inner work of the human being. We can show that meditation of thoughts, feelings, and will-impulses make the feelings and the will-impulses more powerful. We can show how they work on this astral body: the astral body shows after some time, if the human being has patience and perseverance, that it has acquired the spiritual eyes and ears returning in the early morning in the physical and etheric bodies and it can experience now what one calls enlightenment. The human being is able to work on his astral body — working here in the awake consciousness by meditation of certain feelings and will-impulses according to certain methodical regulations — in such a way that it is able to react on us. Thereby one shows the reality of the astral body. We work on it and it works on us. It shows its existence by the fact of the initiation.

Just as the astral body is separated from the physical body at night, the bearer of the ego, of the human self-consciousness is also separated from him. This also disappears at the present developmental state of the human being still in an uncertain darkness. With the sleeping human being, we have the physical body in the bed that he has in common with all minerals, as well as the etheric body that he has in common with all plants. From the physical body and the etheric body the astral body is lifted out which he has in common only with the animals, and the ego that the human being, as a crown of the creation on earth, does not have in common with any other realm of nature. In the present developmental stage where no higher senses, no “spirit eyes” and no “spirit ears”, to speak with Goethe, are developed the impressions of the day disappear falling asleep, and other do not appear in the world for which he has no senses. Hence, darkness, lightlessness, and muteness surround him at night. In the morning while waking, the human being dives in the physical and etheric bodies. These are equipped with the physical eyes and ears. The spiritual human being dives in the physical-sensuous human being, uses the instruments for the physical-sensuous world, and has this world around himself. One should understand what Fichte said: one shall not believe that the eye sees, but that the human being sees by the eye; one shall not believe that the ear hears, but the human being hears by the ear. The same applies to the sense of smell and the sense of taste. They are tools for the inner human being.

Spiritual science recognises and must recognise this spiritual, inner human as the original, the first of the human being. The physical and the etheric bodies do not exist as the first, but the astral body and the ego existed before them. Indeed, some people who are influenced deeper suggestively by the very effective present ideas sticking to the material will argue: do you imagine in your fantastic spiritual science that this spiritual, this bearer of joy and sorrow, of desires, passions, and self-consciousness hovered once freely somewhere without being tied to a physical body? — Spiritual science answers: certainly, this is the case! Before anything physical, even before anything etheric existed, this astral body existed. The inner life was before the appearance.

With it, we are placed immediately at the earth's beginning. — Can you imagine that anybody can deny completely, even under the strong materialistic suggestions that something underlies like a spiritual state that condenses only afterward and comes into being? I have often emphasised here that spiritual science regards the matter as compressed spirit. We use a comparison that we have often applied to show how the spiritual researcher thinks about spirit and matter. Imagine once, somebody has transparent air before himself, and clouds form in this transparent air, as the effect of cooling. What was transparent before is clouded; what was vapour and was not visible once becomes water. Maybe it goes on: the water freezes to ice. The ice falls down in pieces. Let us assume that anybody comes and says, it is nonsense, stupidity that the water was distributed before in the air. I have seen nothing of it! The first I saw were the clouds. Then someone comes who can also not yet see the clouds, he sees something only if the water freezes if ice originates. If one says to him: what is there as ice today was there already sooner than water, then he answers: I have seen nothing, ice is there and nothing else.

From such thoughts, the answer must be taken if anybody wants to accuse a spiritual researcher of speculative fiction who says that the human being did not exist materially at first, also not as an etheric body, but his astral body and ego existed first. In the beginning of our earth existence, the astral body and the ego existed. Yes, there was even, as we see soon, the human being as a spiritual being on the earth, before animals, before plants, before minerals existed. At first, the earth existed as an agglomeration of nothing but such spiritual human beings who consisted of the ego and the astral body. This is the outset of the earth. The spiritual researcher goes on describing: as the water was distributed invisibly in the air, is condensed to clouds, the astral was condensed once to the etheric condition. Then human beings existed who had an ego, an astral body, and an etheric body. At last, the physical body originated, as the ice from the water, the water from the water vapour forms, as the densest part of the human being. Thus, we have the course of the earthly development: the human being is there as a spiritual being at first, then as an etheric being, and last the spiritual crystallises the human physical body.

We capture the picture of the condensing water vapour on camera. Assume that you have a lump of water. You would treat this lump of water artificially so that a part freezes in the middle. Imagine, you have many such lumps with which a part freezes in the middle; there originate many ice granules. Something very peculiar happens now: from some of these lumps of water the ice lumps fall out and remain only with little water coated for themselves, while the mother substance, the water withdraws, from which the ice has formed. With the other lumps of water, the ice granules remain in the water lumps and keep on freezing. More water changes into ice, bigger ice cores originate there. With a number of the resulting formations such bigger ice cores precipitate and keep some water, while the mother substance withdraws. This goes on that way. Such ice lumps rise to a higher stage, they develop more ice from the water. Always ice stages form back on earth, while other lumps transform more and more of the water into ice, until they have such ice lumps at last which have transformed all water into ice and whose mother substance is included, so to speak, only between the pores of the ice.

Let this picture of the earth's evolution arise in you from the outset until our time. Imagine the human being as a spiritual being at the beginning of our earth's existence and only existing as a spiritual being. He begins first to densify a small, unimportant part, which becomes denser. There are certain beings that stop like the ice granules on an early stage, while they separate from their spiritual mother substance. These are the most imperfect animals that originated once from the human mother substance; from the astral human being only a part became material and densified. These are the lowest animals. The other human beings developed to higher stages. Higher animals precipitated again from the spiritual mother substance. Thus, in the course of the earth development more and more differentiated and perfect creatures developed, up to the today's human being who is in his external physical expression an image of the spiritual arrangements and possibilities that were included originally at the earth's beginning in spirit, in the astral body of the human being. As the ice lumps, which precipitated, represent the stages of the becoming of the big ice lump, all beings that are more imperfect than the human being is constitute the entire animal realm and plant realm, the backward stages of the human evolution on earth.

The human being is the first-born of the earth as a spiritual being, and he has densified as a spiritual being if I may use the expression the material gradually from himself. On every stage subordinated beings stopped, so that we have to see in the whole range of the more imperfect earthly beings not ancestors of the human being, but on the contrary descendants of the spiritual human being who did not come along. These are the backward brothers, backward beings on the preliminary stages, which continued their life until our time and that is why they became decadent.

Thus, considering the evolution we see members falling out. If anybody could put a chair in the space and watch the Hyperborean human being, he would see if the premises of spiritual science were right the external-physical picture that the spiritual researcher shows: how the human being first left behind the imperfect animals and then the more and more perfect ones. Really the human being originated externally latest in his today's figure, as the latest one of the creatures; spiritually he is the first-born; spiritually he leads the way of all beings. From the human being all the other beings have developed who fall out on an imperfect stage of the human being as it were, which represent the repelled ones of the human evolution. Thus, in the earth's evolution everything imperfect goes back to the higher. The higher, the original is not in our physical figure, but in the spirit. The modern natural sciences suffer almost from the question, which they put repeatedly and which is so intimately connected with our topic of the outset of our earth: how can anything living develop from the lifeless? If on our earth only lifeless material is, how could life develop from it? The only answer is that one puts the question wrongly. Life has never developed from the lifeless; however, everything lifeless has originated from life.

You can easily realise how the lifeless arises from the living if you look at the hard coal, which is dug out like a rock even today. Once the coal was plants, ferns and horsetails which have stood on certain regions of the earth, and sank in the ground and which you can dig out now after millions of years, after they have become stone. For the spiritual researcher not only the coal originated from plants, but everything mineral leads back to an original plant, even if the materialistic researcher cannot imagine a plant realm without mineral basis. Such a researcher cannot imagine that the denser, coarser processes arise from the subtler processes.

There is an example how such a materialistic view strikes in the face of any common sense how materialism haunts in some European scholars. There is, for example, the materialistic theory of soul phenomena by William James (1842–1910, American philosopher and psychologist) which even wants to be idealistic with which the materialistic ideas mingle in the entire thinking. I have already quoted the symptom that is contained in the sentence: “The human being does not cry because he is sad, but he is sad because he cries.” There the person concerned supposes that the existence works materially on the human being: it works on the lachrymal glands, and then the human being feels the process and becomes sad. This is in our present this way: the inventor of this theory is consequent in his materialism, also if it strikes in the face of common sense. In truth, the processes are in the mental-spiritual world, and the material processes are the results of them. The mental-spiritual processes are the original ones. Everything solid, everything material-mineral around us has originated from the spiritual. The question is not how life has originated from lifeless but how the lifeless has originated from the living. However, as something lifeless originates from the living the living was there before the lifeless, the spiritual was there before the living. Thus, we come back to the outset of our earth and see that our earth was a spiritual being even at its starting point. It was a spiritual being, the material developed successively from itself that from the spiritual the living, and from the living the dead has originated. The dead is the latest product.

Thus, we look back to the outset of our earth and feel as human beings as the first-born of the earth, spiritual at the starting point of the earth evolution. Now we let the spirit look from here at the future. We can understand the easiest how the spiritual researcher achieves a picture of the future perspective if we realise what has also already arisen briefly from other indications in this series of talks that in the today's human being the single organs are of quite different value. It is not in such a way as it appears to the materialistic anatomy with the investigation of the human being. For the materialistic anatomist everything is there only in such a way as it presents itself after its physical peculiarity. However, for that who pursues the human organs with spiritual sight there are those which are in decadence, in withering, as the tree forms the bark, as well as others, which are at the beginning of their development as they look today. Certain lower organs that today serve the reproduction of humanity are dying away. However, we have an organ which is in the beginning of its development, and which attains a much higher stage in the future. This organ is the human heart. Not only the spiritual part, but also the physical organ, the heart, is a wonderful perspective for our future. The heart is a crux for the anatomist because, otherwise, every voluntary organ has fasciated muscles. The heart is an organ, which is a voluntary muscle according to its structure, although it is used as an involuntary organ. Where from does this come?

No physical anatomy can explain this! The reason is that the heart is intended to be a much higher organ in the future. It is fasciated because it is a voluntary muscle in the future. We correspond voluntarily with a movement of the heart in the future to that what the soul feels as an impulse. The human being will perform his work not only by the tools of the hand, but the heart will be the tool of the soul in a way, as the human being does not at all anticipate it even today.

Take another organ, the human vocal organ. What is it capable of today? If I speak to you what happens there? My words that I speak to you live in my soul at first. If I did not pronounce them, they would not penetrate into your soul. I pronounce them, set the tools of my larynx in motion. The air here in this room is set in vibration, and there are the oscillations of each of my words in this hall that penetrate you. What is language? It is an aerial embodiment of the thoughts. If I have pronounced anything, the thought sounds there, it is embodied in the air, and someone who could see the aerial waves in this room would see the physical creation of my thoughts bustling about in the room. Spiritual science shows that the future human being gets around to producing not only aerial-shaped figures by his words, but also denser matter as image of that what lives in his soul. He will learn to shape denser and denser this way, and he will produce his equals by his transformed vocal organ, by his word. If the human being keeps on developing, important changes of his corporeality take place. Certain organs decline, other organs keep on developing. The heart becomes an important tool of the soul. The vocal organ becomes the reproductive organ of the future human being who will produce his equals from his thoughts.

As he embodies his thoughts in the air today, he will embody himself by the organ that is becoming the future reproductive organ. Like a shade of that what our head will be is that what he is today. The coherence between the human vocal organ and the reproductive organ is indicated by the fact that with the male individual the voice changes with the sexual maturity.

May the human beings better consider such changes which spiritual science imparts! What the spiritual research says points to that what humanity will have later to the creation of its equals: it is the word. A human being speaks the word, and the word will be a human being. This happens when the human being has spiritualised himself more and more. For he spiritualises himself and returns to the spirit at the end of the earth because he puts his physical tools at the disposal of the spirit, as we have seen it with the heart and with the larynx. With the predecessors of the human being, the creators who started their earth's existence at that time who stood at the earth's beginning where the human being will stand at the earth's end one recognises that it was with them the same way. The human being will originate by the word at the end, he will speak the word at the primeval end, and the word will be a human being. Of those beings, the divine-spiritual beings which already stood at the earth's beginning at the height to which the human beings will develop once it is said to us in one of the deepest religious documents, in the John's Gospel, properly and appropriately: in the primeval beginning the word was, and the word was a God. — As the word was in the primeval beginning, and the word was a God, the word will be a human being at the primeval end, and the human being will be the word.

If we look at the beginning that way and see how the human being has originated from the spirit and has become the today's human being in the sense of the earth's evolution, and look at the changes of our earthly human being, the perspective of the spiritualisation of the earth presents itself to us. There we have spirit at the beginning and spirit at the end. Spirit was the origin and spirit is the goal. This is the secret of the earth's evolution. If we see the more and more condensing matter in the middle, we know that this matter is a converted and transformed spirit if we regard it not as an outer vision, but go into its being. It is nothing else than that what has developed from the spirit and what becomes spirit again. If we look forward, everywhere we look at spirit. According to Jacob Boehme, we originate in the spirit, and we strive for the spirit. The activity of the spirit is that knowledge of the spirit that raises the human being really which makes him a useful being because he will be a hopeful, spiritually and physically healthy being. It is the knowledge that everything is rooted in spirit and that that what we perceive and see in the world evolution is the actions of the divine spirit.