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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Awareness - Life - Form
GA 89

Part II: 6. Evolution and Involution

Private instruction, Berlin-Schlachtensee, 3 July 1904


In thinking of the evolution of a planetary system we have to consider the following. Evolution happens in such a way that for every entity, two processes, evolution and involution, are always alternating.89These two concepts are among the most important in Rudolf Steiner’s science of the spirit. See e.g. lectures given in Berlin on 11 November and 23 December 1904 in The Temple Legend (see note 22). In two public lectures given in Berlin on 3 November and 1 December 1904 [in German] in Ursprung und Ziel des Menschen GA 53, he considered an aspect of the alternation between form and life in cultural history. The Appendix to Part 2 in this volume shows that a third concept, ‘creation out of nothing’, goes hand in hand with these two. We therefore have to think of the seven as going through evolution and involution.

In the next planet, each of the rules has to advance by one level. 8 is the evolved 7. In evolving further, they evolve into the other. When the 7th has been reached, the process cannot continue. If 7 were to become 8, the process would have existed before, it would be nothing but repetition of the first, or 7 at another level. As we move on, we see that the leaders themselves change. We then have 12 regents and a 13th who is superfluous. This 13th takes the whole planet to a state, which is as it was in the beginning, only at a higher level.

We have to end with 12. In every planetary chain system we thus have not 7 but 12 sublime guiding spirits. Among them, only the 8th is not in action in the first, and so on. (Our concepts belong to the rupic mental world, these spirits are beyond our ability to conceive; we thus speak not of one proceeding from another but of relationships - timeless).

These spirits have been acknowledged as regents in symbols, for instance in the zodiac, with the sun moving through them. Enhancement of conscious awareness in microcosmic evolution also corresponds to the stages in the macrocosm. So that the number 12 has always been important and there have always been 12 guiding spirits everywhere: 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles, 12 knights of the Grail. Both macrocosmically and microcosmically, 12 is therefore the sacred number on which everything is based. 7 are in action, 5 have other work to do. For the physical planet, only 7 come into consideration, which is also why only 7 of the 12 principles of the human being are taught.90(see note 3): ‘As the external eye looks into distant grey mists, so the inner eye of the seer looks in wide expanse of spirit at another five forms of conscious awareness which, however, are quite impossible to describe. All in all we may thus speak of twelve levels of conscious awareness.’

Mental derivation from spirits that lie beyond the mental.

We can best get an idea of how evolution relates to involution if we consider some aspects of history.

Evolution and involution always go together as opposites. Consider Greek sculpture. The form was brought out; the intrinsic essence remained inward. Let us now consider Renaissance painting. In Greek sculpture we had involution of colour, evolution of form. When we let painting develop from sculpture we have form in involution, colour in evolution. Something, which before had been involution changed later to become evolution.

The 16th century marked the beginning of personal mental and knowledge-related development. It was preceded by the age of painting (from Cimabue onwards) in the High Renaissance. In the work of Michelangelo, the personal kama manasic element is in involution, colour and sculpted form on the other hand in evolution. The kama manas principle applied, but not through itself; it was in involution. As development proceeded, kama manas, intelligence, had to evolve in the present age. We see, therefore, that the element, which called itself ‘science’, took over from painting. People were descending out of the paintings, as it were, and saying things themselves. The painters had foreseen future, as it were, but in form and colour. People [of the modem age] have transformed into science what was there in involution. If we let Michelangelo rise again, we have Galileo [1546–1642]. The rational mind was thus evolving, whilst wisdom was involving; it was evolving in creative writing. Creative writing became the guardian of the wholly wisdom-filled. The final element was thus given not with an initiate in theory, but in creative writing. [Goethe?]

Someone who knows his mission in the present age must therefore transform the wisdom, which is there in involution, into wisdom which is thought. These are the alternating periods of involution and evolution. We can only consider a phenomenon rightly if we take account not only of what is evolved but also of what has gone through involution.

Every evolutional state of the planets that follows thus signifies a state of evolution which preceded it. Everything which is rational mind on Earth today, was involution in the preceding planet. The element which today has been cast out and down is in evolution on the other hand; kama rupa [astral or desire body], sense-perceptible nature, played the same role then as kama manas [rational mind] does today.

Not all pitris reached the normal status. Their highest principle is still kama rupa today, therefore, and they seek above all to enhance kama rupa. If, therefore, our goal or ideal is to enhance kama manas to its highest peak, we cannot say that this goal comes from this world; it is only being evolved by us. Anything of this world is kama rupa; it is given. Kama manas is the ideal. The ideal of those who consider kama rupa to be the ideal is of this world.

Thus there are two things on this Earth, apart from all else: the human being whose ideal is not of this world. For him, tempters are those who say: Stay with the pleasures of this world. These spirits, whose highest nature relates to our lowest, are called ‘Satan’ or ‘wrongful prince of this world’ in Christian esoteric language. If one who [presents himself] as a guide, someone also called ‘one who goes with the Sun’, truly wants to show the ideal, he must wholly overcome the tempter. Hence the allegorical indication that the overcoming of the final evolutional stage is represented by the temptation. The spirit which is working its way out of involution and into evolution will always fight the one that has already evolved—knight and dragon, Siegfried and the dragon.