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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Awareness - Life - Form
GA 89

Symbols reflecting original wisdom

27 March 1905, Berlin

In the previous session 104Lecture given on 27 February 1905. The available notes are not adequate for publication. I spoke on the evolution of the fifth root-race. In my absence you will have opportunity to hear about the Atlantean root-race which went before.

‘Occult teaching’, as it is called, has always put what it had to say in specific images and symbols, for some truths are difficult to put into words in our ordinary language. It is wrong to think that it has always been possible to express truths clearly, for the truth is much older than our language. Speech only evolved in the main age preceding our time, in Atlantis. The Atlanteans lived on a continent which no longer exists and under completely different circumstances than those we know today. Climatic conditions, air and water were very different then. The first beginnings of speech may be found in the period which preceded the Atlantean age, which was the Lemurian age. It was not speech then, but just a way of letting individual sounds emerge.

Truth, wisdom, existed before there was human speech. Being young, human speech cannot put the original and eternal truths, which created the world and are still doing creative work on the world, in words. The teaching of that wisdom was always secret. It was only told to pupils when they had learned the language of symbolic signs in which those secrets were presented. 105Concerning work with the symbols, see lecture given in Dornach on 23 October 1915, [in German] in Die okkulte Bewegung im 19. Jahrhundert und ihre Beziehung zur Weltkultur GA 254. It is difficult to translate these signs into our language. For some things we still have to use symbolic signs and images, for they are better expressed in images than in words.

It is very difficult to understand the transition from a human form which did not yet have two genders to the human form of today. The human body has changed a great deal in the long process of evolution. In Lemurian times the body was a kind of fiery mist, like a fiery cloud. Nor was there any solid earth then. The human body did have the same kind of matter as it has today, but it was still gaseous. It went quickly through a number of metamorphoses. His will determined the expression of his form. When he wanted something, he could not reach for it with his hand, since he did not have one; he shaped a hand for himself that would allow him to reach. This sounds unbelievable today.

What is our present history? We know only a few millennia on Earth. Nothing has been recorded in writing of the earliest times in Earth evolution because nothing had hardened to stone as yet, and so no impressions could be made in stone. The material which now makes up the things in the outside world and our own human body has changed utterly from those most ancient times. We cannot investigate those conditions physically. Only occult investigation makes it possible to learn something about them, and for this we have the akashic record. This contains everything which happens in the world of the spirit, and since the physical is an out-flowing of the spiritual, it contains everything which ever happened and is happening.

Human beings gather impressions throughout the day and digest them inwardly. The astral body contains all the echoes from the day, everything one has inwardly felt, willed and thought. This astral body lives in the astral space, and anything which happens in it is impressed in the astral world as a reflection, like waves, and stays alive. In this state, which is freed from the physical life of the day, the human being inscribes in the higher worlds what he has gone through, and this remains. In his sleep, the human being is thus working for eternity. When he is sleeping, his soul and spiritual bodies are outside the physical and ether bodies, but he is not aware of this. Only a clairvoyant can see how what has been inscribed in the akashic record has gone through a human soul.

The further we go back into the past, the more do we have to depend on the akashic record, and the further we go back, the purer does the record get. It is easiest to read it in Earth states that lie far, far back, before the Earth became physical. It is much harder to read it in the Atlantean age, and hardest of all in post-Atlantean times. For the reader must carefully erase anything he knows of those times from his soul, so that it will not adulterate the record. It is therefore easier to investigate something that goes very far back, when no sense-perceptible images existed as yet.

Great confusion will also arise if someone is not quite sure how to read those signs. If, for instance, someone has lived in Roman times—let us assume Virgil. 106Virgil, or Publius Vergilius Maro (70–19 BC). Roman poet. When we perceive Virgil in the akashic record, he is like a living image, like real life; it is like a recapitulation of life itself. You can see Virgil’s life take its course again; it is a true reproduction of what happened at the time. If you put a question to this image, it will answer the way Virgil might possibly have been able to answer. Swedenborg 107Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772). Swedish mystic, theologian and scientist. See also Community Life, Inner Development, Sexuality and the Spiritual Teacher GA 253, tr. C. E. Creeger, New York: Anthroposophic Press 1991. talked with this akasha image of Virgil. 108The anecdote that Virgil visited Swedenborg in the spirit, probably came from Aberglaube und Zauberei von den aeltesten Zeiten an bis in die Gegenwart by Dr Alf. Lehmann, director of the psychic laboratory at Copenhagen University (German edition publ. in Stuttgart in 1898). This is in R. Steiner’s library. It says on page 219 that the well-known Prof. Porthan von Aebo visited Swedenborg in London but could not see him right away as he was seeing someone else.’ Porthan also heard Swedenborg in lively conversation with someone in the next room, though he was unable to catch a single word of what the other person was saying. Then the door opened and Swedenborg took someone who was not visible to Porthan to the door, continuing the conversation all the time until he said good-bye to that imaginary person in the most polite terms. He then turned to Porthan and told him he had just had a visit form Virgil, who had been most amicable and explained many interesting things to him.’ See also the lecture given in Berlin on 30 May 1904, from GA 52, in The History of Spiritism and the History of Hypnotism and Somnambulism, tr. F. E. Dawson, London: R. Steiner Publ. Co., 1943. The Virgil individual himself has gone through a different further development of his own. Someone who is not able to make clear distinctions may confuse these things.

I would now like to speak of the allegories 109See note 102 which have always been used in occultism to refer to the period of transition from a two-gender to a one-gender human being, to the separation of the sexes in Lemurian times. Three symbols were used. 110Rudolf Steiner’s source for this clearly was the 18th century French philosopher Louis Claude Marquis de Saint-Martin (1743 - 1803). He publishes his first work Des erreurs et de la vérite ou les homines rappelés an principle universel de la science, par un ph... inc... [philosophe inconnu] in 1775, fictitious place of publication ‘Edimbourg’ (really Lyon). This earned him the epithet ‘Saint Martin, the unknown philosopher’. Rudolf Steiner would often refer to Saint-Martin as representative of a spirituality that had been lost and needed to be regained through the modern science of the spirit. He suggested that the Der Kommende Tag publishing house brought a new edition of the German translation by Matthias Claudius in 1925. The preface he had intended to write was not written because of his death. In the chapter on errors and truth, it says that in his original state, before the Fall, the human being had to fight all the time to overcome disorder and restore unity of all. This was potentially dangerous and so he was clothed in impenetrable armour and armed with a lance which would always strike in two places at once. The country where this human being was to fight his fight ‘was covered with a wood of seven trees, each of which had sixteen roots and 490 branches.’ At the end of the book the ‘book of man’ is described, saying that although it only had ten pages it nevertheless contained ‘all insights and knowledge of what has been, of what is and of what will be.’ See also note 111.

The first symbol: man was given his original armour and a two-edged sword.
The second symbol are the seven trees.
The third symbol is the book of ten pages.

The armour referred to the original relationship between the solid parts of the Earth and the solid parts of our physical body. This body, which is connected with the solid part of the Earth is the first state or condition of human nature. It has not always been like this. The Earth was very different in earlier times. Today’s solid part was in a different state then, mingled with something of very different substance nature which has since been separated off. It would be referred to more or less like this: \(Ph\) + \(S\) = Physical body + Spirit. With this formula, people learned to look at the way in which the spirit has built up the body. We may indeed marvel to see the wonderful way in which the struts are positioned in the thigh bone. The wisest architect could not have found a better solution to the problem [of managing] with the smallest amount of matter [to have the whole body supported]. Or if we consider the anatomy of the heart, which functions for a whole life in such a wonderful way in spite of all the damage people cause from lack of sense, consuming poisons such as alcohol, coffee, and so on. If we think of this spirit as an effective, active power mixed into matter, we have the two states in which the body is able to exist. In the original vestment the spirit was still active by penetrating and configuring it directly and all the way. It then separated from this.

The second principle is something human beings have in common with plants—growth, reproductive powers, that is, vital energy. \(V_e + w =\) vital energy \(+\) water. As the physical principle is bound up with the spirit, so is vital energy bound up with water. The occultist sees water as life. All that lives is swelling and unthinkable without water. The third principle to arise in the human being was the ability to wish. Originally this was linked with fire as a spiritual power. Passion, kama, arose in human beings from that ability to wish. In kama, the human being was united with fire. \(P_w + f =\) power to wish \(+\) fire.

At an even earlier time, the human I was not yet bound to a single entity. It was a centre in the billowing sea of these elements which surrounded the human being. You can see a degenerated echo of the spirit creating form in the midst of materiality in the development of crystals. The physical body was crystalline and radiant at that time. It absorbed vital energy and left the water behind. After that, the human being absorbed the fire and became warm-blooded.

He was then given the two-edged sword, which was the I. It could act from the outside to the inside and from the inside to the outside. It had power over the elements of earth, water and fire which were subservient to it. When kama was bound up with fire, water with vital energy, matter with spirit, the human being developed his armour, he received his two-edged sword.


The seven trees are seven ways in which the human being can be himself. Here we have man’s past, present and future. First there is the physical vestment (sthula sarira), then the ether body (prana), with powers of reproduction, nutrition and growth active in it, thirdly the part of essential human nature in which drives and passions are active, the astral body. Only then comes the most central principle, the fourth, human self-awareness. The human being received his fourfold nature unconsciously, without contributing to this himself. As soon as he had gained self-awareness he began to work on himself and organize his astral body. He is now gradually shining through his astral body from the inside. This work will come to its conclusion at the end of our post-Atlantean period, when the astral body will be steeped in manas.

There are seven stages:

  1. The tree of physical existence—the human being develops his physical body
  2. The tree of growth
  3. The tree of relationship—the human being develops sympathy for and antipathy to his surroundings
  4. The tree of knowing good and evil—the human being closes himself off from the outside world
  5. The tree of life—the human being begins to bring life into his astral body; transition from kama body to manas
  6. The tree of the word—the human being is able to hear the ‘inner word’, gaining mystic insight
  7. The tree of being in harmony with God—the human being rests in harmony with God in the universe.

The next time I will say something about the book of ten pages. The great teachers of humanity would read that book the way people spell words today.

Notebook page Archive NB 105
Notebook page Archive NB 105
Notebook page Archive NB 105
Notebook page Archive NB 105