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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Awareness - Life - Form
GA 89

Part II: Appendix

Private instruction,
probably in 1904

Note: The notes on instruction given on the Logoi (last lecture in Part 1 and Part 2) did not cover the ‘creation out of nothing’ concept which is an essential part of it. The extracts from other lectures which follow are intended to make up for this.* New translations have been made of these excerpts for this volume, as the German editions have changed since the lectures were first translated into English.

From a lecture in Berlin on 30 October 190396In Foundations of Esotericism (see note 13).

World evolution can be seen to be in three stages—conscious awareness, life and form. The different kinds of conscious awareness come to expression in the seven planets Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan. Seven worlds of life are gone through on each planet, and each of these in turn through seven states of form.

Our physical Earth is such a form state, the fourth form state or globe in the fourth life world of the fourth planet or state of consciousness. Let us now think of the Earth as it is today and ask ourselves: What are we doing here? We take objects from the world around us, first of all from the mineral world, and make them into artefacts. We make combinations, creating a whole from separate things. This is creative work in form. Something new may also arise in another way, similar to the way in which stems, leaves and flowers arise from the root of a plant. The flower is not put together like a machine, where things are combined, but needs to grow from something which is already there, in a process which is part of life. Something new is created out of something which is already there.

With the third way of producing something, which is from the conscious mind, the process is such that we may say: Essentially there was nothing there, really—a nothing.

Let us go back to the very beginning of such a planetary evolution, the very beginning of Saturn evolution. What do we observe there? No physical planet existed as yet, not even in the most subtle arupa form, and the moment has not yet come when Saturn exists in its first beginnings. Nothing existed as yet of our planetary chain, but the whole fruit of the preceding planetary chain was there. It is rather like waking up in the morning, when we have not yet done anything, and all we have in mind is the memory of what we did the day before. Going back to the very beginning of Saturn evolution we thus have the memory of an earlier planetary chain, of what went before, in the spirits which were then manifesting.

Let us now go to the end of the planetary chain, to the time when the Vulcan stage will come to an end. In the course of the planetary chain, the potential, which was there to begin with has gradually emerged as creation. In the beginning, therefore, conscious awareness flowed out; out of the content of what had gone before, from memory, conscious awareness created something new. Something will thus be there at the end, which was not there at the beginning, and that is everything which has been learned. The potential, which was there at the beginning has flowed out into all kinds of things and entities. A new conscious awareness has arisen at the end, with new content—a new content of the conscious mind. It is something which has arisen from nothing, from lessons learned.

If we look at renewal in life, we have to say that there must be a seed to make it all possible. But the new content of conscious awareness at the end of a planetary evolution has truly arisen from nothing, from lessons learned. This needs no foundations, it creates something which arises out of nothing. We cannot say that when someone looks at someone else that he has taken something away from that other person when he afterwards keeps a memory of them. This memory has arisen from nothing. This is the third way of creation—out of nothing. The three ways of creation are thus the following.

Combining existing elements (form)

Letting new structures with new life content arise from existing foundations (life)

Creating from nothing (conscious awareness).

These are three definitions of spirits that give rise to a planetary chain, are at the back of a planetary chain. They are called the three Logoi. The third Logos produces by combining. When something else arises from a substance, something with new life, the second Logos is behind it. And whenever something arises from nothing, we have the first Logos. The first Logos is therefore also often called ‘something that lies hidden in the things themselves’, the second Logos ‘the substance dormant in the things which creates living things from living things’, and the third Logos ‘the one which combines all that is, putting the world together from those things’.

The three Logoi always move through and into one another in the world. The first Logos also learns of the inner wisdom and of the will. The creative activity of the first Logos is learning from experience, that is, gathering thoughts out of nothingness and then again creative work based on the thoughts which have come from nothingness. Creation out of nothing does not mean, however, that there would have been absolutely nothing there. It means that things were learned from experience in the course of evolution and that new things were created in the course of evolution, with something which exists melting away, as it were, and something new is created out of the experience.

Creation happens like this, to use an analogy: Someone looks at another person and remembers the image. If he had the creative gifts of the first Logos he would be able to say to himself: ‘Right, I’ve seen N and also know the idea of N in reverse. I can also produce a negative of him, with black where there’s white and vice versa.’ He has thus learned from the object and its negative and created something completely new. He might endow this with life. It would be a new structure which did not exist before. Let us now assume something does this with many people and those many people were to perish. The observer would then be able to create a new world on the basis of what he has learned.

If we study the world, we will always see the three Logoi interacting. Let us visualize the way the three Logoi work with reference to the human being in our planetary system. Let us think of a point at the beginning of Saturn evolution when nothing was as yet in existence. What happened there? Everything that had existed before was allowed to come out drop by drop, as it were. What arose there would have been the very first pouring out of matter from the sum of what had been learned from earlier experiences. Everything that had been taken in before was made to flow out in form of matter. This also included the matter from which humanity would later arise. Initially this matter existed merely as matter. The out-flowing had to be continually built up and brought together by combination. The combining of the matter which had flowed out was a new creation. It was initially the work of the third Logos; once matter had flowed out it was therefore the work of the third Logos.

What significance did this have for the human being? It meant that first of all, all the parts were brought together which would then make up his physical body. At the time, on Saturn, the human being was very much an automaton. If you had spoken a word into him he would have said it out again. Forms of entities were created. This is called ‘the work of the third Logos’. It continued into the Sun period of evolution when the human being also received his ether body, life. That was the work of the second Logos. Let us now continue on into the Earth period. There the human being himself was given conscious awareness, that is, the possibility of learning from experience out of nothing. That was the work of the first Logos. The Saturn human being received the principle which is form in him. The Sun human being received the principle which is life in him from the second Logos. The Earth human being received the principle that would develop into conscious awareness in him from the first Logos.

We need to get a clearer understanding of the concept of conscious awareness. For this, we need to get a complete idea of this concept on a specific plane. Human beings are conscious, but we need to know where his conscious awareness is. Today, human beings are conscious on the physical plane when we speak of waking consciousness. This might, however, also be on the astral plane. A creature which has its life on the physical plane and its conscious awareness on the astral plane is an animal.

In the human being, conscious awareness is localized in the head. In the case of an animal, a tiger for example, conscious awareness is on the astral plane. It creates a focus for itself outside the head and from there it influences the tiger. When a tiger feels pain, the pain also goes across to the astral plane. The organ for this is in front of the head in a tiger, where human beings have their forehead. In human beings, the focus has become enclosed in the head and filled with the forebrain; conscious awareness has been captured by the brain and frontal skull and is therefore on the physical plane. In the tiger, and in all animals altogether, the focal point for consciousness lies in front of the head, in the astral; that is where it goes into the astral world. It is different again with plants. If we were able to trace their conscious awareness we would, going from above downwards, always come to the tip of the root. Following the line of growth we would then come to the centre of the earth. That is the point where all sensations of plants come together, where the conscious awareness of plants is absorbed. It is in direct connection with the mental world. The whole plant world has its conscious awareness in the mental sphere. Conscious awareness for the whole of the mineral world is in the highest spheres of the mental world, on the arupa plane. The conscious awareness of stones is such that if we wanted to find the focus we would find it to be like a kind of Sun atmosphere. When we work on the mineral world here on Earth, breaking stones, every single act connects in a specific way with this Sun atmosphere. We thus have a range of entities on the physical plane, but their conscious awareness is on different planes.

Lecture given in Stuttgart on 15 September 190797In Occult Signs and Symbols, tr. S. Kurland; New York: Anthroposophic Press 1972.

Let us first of all investigate the meaning of involution and evolution. Let us consider a plant, a fully developed plant with root, leaves, stems, flower and fruit, in short with all the parts which a plant is able to have. That is the one thing. And then consider the tiny seed from which the plant may arise again. Looking at the seed we see just a small grain, but the whole plant is already inside it, wrapped up in it, as it were. Why is it in there? Because the seed grain was taken from the plant, and the plant has put all its powers into it. In occultism, distinction is therefore made between two processes. One is that the seed unrolls and develops into a whole plant—evolution; the other that the plant folds up, its structure creeping into the seed, as it were—involution. So if a life form which has many organs develops in such a way that nothing is visible any more of those organs, that they have shrunk together into the seed, this is called ‘involution’, and the going apart, unfolding is called an ‘evolution’. This duality alternates everywhere in life, but always only in the sphere of the manifest. You can see this not only in plants; it is like this also in the higher spheres of life.

You might, for instance, follow the evolution in your mind of European cultural life from Augustine to Calvin, beyond the Middle Ages. If you consider the cultural life of that time you will find a degree of mystic inwardness in Augustine himself. You cannot read his works, especially his Confessions, without getting a sense of the inwardness of this man’s life of feelings. If we then move on in time we come to the marvellous figure of John Scotus Erigena a monk who had originally come from Scotland and was therefore also called John the Scot and lived at the court of Charles the Bald. He did not do so well in the Church. Legend tells of the brothers torturing him to death with their pens. This should not be taken literally, however. It is true, however, that he was martyred. John wrote a magnificent book De Divisione Naturae (about the divisions of nature), which shows great profundity. Then we come to the mystics of the Pfaffengasse,98In the Pfaffengasse—popular name given to the region on the left bank of the Rhine where ecclesiastical states were numerous—Chur, Constance, Basle, Speyer, Worms, Mainz, Trier, Cologne. where this inwardness of feeling spread among large masses of people. These were not only the leading clerics but also the populace; people who worked in the fields or in a smithy—all were caught up in this inwardness of feeling which was a trait of that time. Moving on we come to Nicholas of Cusa who lived from 1401 to 1464. We can continue like this to the end of the Middle Ages; we will always find that depth of feeling, an inwardness that spread through all levels of society.

If we compare that period with the one which followed, beginning in the 16th century and continuing into our own time, we perceive a tremendous difference. To begin with, there was Copernicus who had a comprehensive thought which brought a renewal in cultural life; he made it so much part of human thinking that anyone who believes in something different today will be considered a fool. We come to Galileo, who discovered the laws that govern the swing of a pendulum on observing the movement of a lamp in a church. We can thus follow the course of time step by step, and would always find the complete opposite of the Middle Ages. Feeling grew less and less, the inwardness vanished; the rational mind, the intellect, emerged more and more, with people getting cleverer and more intelligent all the time.

We thus have two periods of time which were exact opposites in character. Spiritual science gives us the explanation for this. There is an occult law which says that it must be like this. The period from Augustine to Calvin was one of mystic evolution and intellectual involution; since then we have been living in a period of intellectual evolution and mystic involution. What does this mean? From Augustine to the 16th century it was a time when mystic life unfolded in the outside world. Something else existed at the time that was only a seed—intellectual life. If was like a seed lying hidden in the soil of the mind which then gradually unfolded after the 16th century. Intellectual life was thus in involution at that time, just as a plant lies in its seed. Nothing can arise in the world that has not first been in such an involution. From the 16th century onwards, intellectual thinking has been in evolution, and mystic life has gone into the background; it is in involution. Now the time has come where this mystic life must emerge again. The theosophical movement must help it to unfold again, to go into evolution.

Involution and evolution are thus always alternating in life in the sphere of the manifest. However, if we stop at this we are only looking at the outside. To see the whole, there has to be a third principle which is behind those two. What is this third principle? Imagine you come up against a phenomenon in the outside world and reflect on it. You are there, the outside world is there, and your thoughts arise in you. Those thoughts were not there before. If you develop the idea of a rose, for example, it will only arise the moment you relate to the rose; you were there, the rose was there; and when the thought, the image of the rose arises in you, something entirely new comes up which has not been there before.

This also applies in other spheres of life. Think of Michelangelo at work. He hardly ever used models. Let us imagine, however, that he collected a group of models. Michelangelo was there, the models were there. But the image of the group in Michelangelo’s soul is something new; it is a completely new creation. This has nothing to do with involution and evolution. It is something completely new which arises in the relationship between an entity able to receive and an entity able to give. New creations like this always arise when essence relates to essence. They are a beginning. Remember how we considered the way thoughts are creative here yesterday, how they can ennoble the soul and will later even work on the forming of the body. Something which some entity thinks, the creation of a thought, an idea, will work on and continue to have an effect. It is a new creation and also a beginning, but it does have consequences. If you have good thoughts today, those thoughts will bear fruit into the far distant future, for your soul follows its own way in the world of the spirit. Your body will go back into the elements again, it will decompose. But even if everything out of which the thought has arisen vanishes, the thought will continue to work.

Let us take the example of Michelangelo again. His magnificent works have raised the hearts and minds of millions of people, but they will fall to dust one day. There will be generations that will no longer see any of his creations. What lived in Michelangelo’s soul before his images assumed physical form, something which was first of all a new creation in his soul—this will live on. It will remain and will emerge at later stages of evolution and take form. Do you know why we have clouds and stars today? Because there were entities in the long distant past which had the thought of clouds and stars. Everything arises from thought creations, and the thought is a new creation. Everything has arisen from thoughts, and the greatest things in the world have come from the thoughts of the godhead.

There you have the third principle. In the sphere of the manifest, things alternate between evolution and involution. But behind this, deeply hidden, lies the third principle, and this alone gives the fullness, a creation which is entirely new, having arisen from nothing.

Thus there have to be three things—creation out of nothing, and then, when this manifests and proceeds in time, it assumes the forms of the manifest: evolution and involution.

Lecture given in Berlin on 17 June 190999In Geisteswissenschaftliche Menschenkunde GA 107 [in German].

In Christian esoteric language, creating out of the given is called ‘being creative in the spirit’, and creation out of given situations that are right, beautiful and full of virtue is called the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is beatitude for the human being when he succeeds in creating something which is right or true, beautiful and good out of nothing. For human beings to be able to create in the sense of this Holy Spirit, they had first to be given the foundation for this, as for all creation out of nothing. They were given this foundation when the Christ came into our evolution. When human beings on Earth became able to have living experience of the Christ event, they were also able to rise to being creative in the Holy Spirit. It is thus the Christ himself who creates the most eminent, most profound basis. If human beings come to be such that they stand firmly on the ground of the Christ experience, that the Christ experience is the vehicle into which they enter so that they may develop further, then the Christ sends the Holy Spirit to them, and they become able to create what is right, beautiful and good in terms of further evolution.

We see, therefore, how the Christ event came on Earth as a final conclusion, as it were, of what had been impressed in the human being through Saturn, Sun and Moon. It has given humanity the most sublime principle which will enable them to live into the prospect of the future and be more and more creative out of the given situations, out of something which is not in this place or in that one, but depends on how human beings relate to the realities that surround them, which is the Holy Spirit in the most comprehensive sense. This is yet again such an aspect of Christian esoteric thinking. This relates to the most profound thought we are able to have concerning all evolution, the thought of creation out of nothing.

Because of this no true theory of evolution can ever leave aside the thought of creation out of nothing. Let us assume there were only evolution and involution. This would be endless repetition, as we see it in plants. All there would be on Vulcan then would be what had its beginning on Saturn. But in addition to evolution and involution the thought of creation out of nothing came in the middle of our evolution. When Saturn, Sun and Moon had passed, the Christ came to the Earth as the element of great enrichment, so that there will be something that is wholly new on Vulcan, something which did not yet exist on Saturn. Someone who speaks only of evolution and involution, will speak of the process of evolution as though everything would just repeated itself, like a cycle. Such cycles can never truly explain world evolution, however. We need to add this creation out of nothing to evolution and involution, something which brings something new into the existing situations. This gives us true understanding of the world.