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The Foundations of Esotericism
GA 93a

Lecture XVIII

Berlin, 16th October 1905

If we wish to obtain a more exact knowledge of how Karma comes about, we must go back a certain way in the development of humanity. If we transpose ourselves back some thousands of years we find Europe covered with ice. At that time, the glaciers of the Alps forced their way right down into the low-lying plain of Northern Germany. The districts in which we now live were then cold and raw. Here dwelt a race of human beings who made use of extremely simple and primitive tools. If we go back about a million years we find in the same territory a tropical climate such as today is only to be found in the hottest districts of Africa. In some parts there were huge primeval forests in which lived parrots, monkeys, especially the gibbon, and elephants. We should however hardly have met in our wanderings in these forests anything approximating to present day human beings and not even to those of periods some thousands of years later. Natural science can prove from certain strata of the earth which arose between these two epochs the existence of a type of human being in whom the front part of the brain was not yet as developed as it is today and whose brow receded far back. Only the back part of the brain was developed. We go back further to times in which people did not yet know the use of fire and made their weapons by grinding pieces of stone. The natural scientist likes to compare this stage of humanity with that of savages or of a clumsy child. Remains of such human beings have been found in the Neandertal and Croatia. They have a skull similar to that of the ape and the finds in Croatia reveal that before their death they were roasted, thus proving that cannibals lived there.

Now the materialistic thinker says: We trace man back into the times in which he was still undeveloped and clumsy and assume that the human being has developed from this childish stage of existence up to the present stage of human culture and that this primitive man has evolved from animals bearing a similarity to man. In this theory of evolution therefore he simply makes a leap from primitive human beings to animals similar to man. The natural scientist takes for granted that the more perfect has always evolved from the less perfect. This however is not always the case. If for example we trace the human being back to childhood we do not come to greater imperfection for the child is descended from father and mother. That is to say we come to a primitive condition deriving from a higher condition. This is important, for it is connected with the fact that already at birth the child has the predisposition to a later stage of perfection, whereas the animal remains at the lower stage.

When the natural scientist has gone back to the stage at which man had no frontal brain and no intellect he should say to himself: I must assume that the origin of man is to be sought elsewhere.

Just as a child is descended from his parents, so all those primitive human beings are descended from others who had already attained a high degree of development. We call these human beings Atlanteans. They lived on that part of the earth which is now covered with the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. The Atlanteans had even less frontal brain, an even farther-receding brow, nevertheless they still possessed something which differed from later human beings. They still had a much stronger, more vigorous etheric body. The etheric body of the Atlanteans had not yet developed certain connections with the brain; these arose later. Thus over the head there was still an immense etheric head. The physical head was comparatively small and embedded in an etheric head of immense size.

The functions which people now carry out with the help of the frontal brain were carried out in the case of the Atlanteans, with the help of organs in the etheric body. By this means they could enter into connection with beings to whom today access is barred to us, just because our frontal brain has been developed. With the Atlanteans a kind of fiery coloured formation was visible, which streamed out from the opening of the physical head towards the etheric head. He had access to all sorts of psychic influences. A head of this kind, which thinks as an etheric head, has power over the etheric, whereas a head which thinks in the physical brain only has power over the physical, over the putting together of purely mechanical things. He can make physical tools, while someone who still thinks in the etheric can cause a seed to grow and bloom.

The Atlantean civilisation was still in close connection with the growth forces of nature, of the vegetation, a power which present day man has lost. For instance, the Atlantean made no use of steam power to bring vehicles into motion, but used the seed power (samenkraft) of the plants. With this he propelled his vehicles. Only from the last third of the Atlantean epoch, from the time of the original Semites until the time when Atlantis was covered with the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, did the frontal etheric head develop the frontal brain. Through this man lost the power of influencing the growth of plants and gained only the capacity of the physical brain, of intellect. With many things he now had to make a new beginning. He had to begin to learn mechanical work. In this he was like a child, clumsy and awkward, whereas before in developing the vegetable kingdom he had achieved great skill. It is necessary for man to pass through the stage of intelligence and then to regain what he could do earlier. At that time, higher spiritual beings had an influence on the unfree will; through the open etheric head they worked through the intellect.

Going still further back we reach the Lemurian Epoch. Here we come to a stage in human development at which the union of the maternal and paternal principles takes place for the first time. This etheric head naturally branches out into the astral body which surrounds the human beings with its rays ... [Gap in text ...]. If one had found the means of lifting the head with the astral body out of such a human being something quite peculiar would have occurred. He would thereby have lost the possibility of holding himself upright; he would have folded up. Just the opposite procedure was taken with man at that time and through this he gradually raised himself to the upright posture.

In the Lemurian Epoch, however, man was still at a stage at which he did not yet possess what we are assuming could be lifted out of him. In this earlier period he did not yet possess this etheric head with the astral body. At that time, they were not yet there. Man as he wandered over the earth was then really a being folded together. The two organs now used for work, the hands, were then turned backwards and formed additional organs of movement, so that he went on four legs. One must picture two people of the present day, man and woman, entwined in one another, think away the upper half of the body, leaving only the lower half there. The human being was actually male-female. He also had at that time an astral and etheric body, but not the one which he had later. This was a different astral body, that is, such a one as had reached its highest perfection on the Old Moon. There, on the Old Moon, the astral body together with the etheric body had acquired the capacity of developing a physical body which then had a crab-like form. The human being could stand on one pair of legs and make a kind of leaping movement.

This astral body with the etheric body was then of quite another nature. It had a form which was not entirely egg-shaped, but more like a bell which descended like a dome over the human being who went on all fours. The etheric body provided for all the life functions of this Lemurian human being. In his astral body he had a dull twilight consciousness similar to that of our dreams. His consciousness was however unlike the reminiscences inherent in our dreams, for he dreamt of realities. When he was approached by another human being unsympathetic to him, there arose in him a sensation of light which indicated what was unsympathetic.

Already on the Old Moon man had some slight power of using both his front limbs for the purpose of grasping, so that now the time came for assuming the upright posture. His other living companions were, in the Lemurian Age, of the nature of reptiles; animals of grotesque shapes who have left no traces behind them. The ichthyosaurs and so on are descendants of these animals. It is a fact that at that time the earth was inhabited by beings reptilian in character; human bodies too were reptile-like. When eventually this reptilian human being assumed the upright posture, the formation of the head, quite open in front, out of which gushed a fiery cloud, became visible. This gave rise to the tales about the winged serpent, about the dragon. Such was man's grotesque form at that time, reptile-like. The Guardian of the Threshold, the lower nature of man, frequently appears in a form of this kind. It represents the lower nature with the open formation of the head. At that time, the union took place between these forms on the earth and the other beings already described. The astral body with the head formation united with the winged-serpent body with its fiery opening. It was the fructification of the maternal earth with the paternal spirit.

In this way there proceeded the fructification with the Manas forces. The lower astral body merged with the higher astral body. A great part of the astral body, as it then was, fell away. One portion formed the lower parts of the human astral body, and the other newly acquired astral body, connected with the head, united with the upper parts of the human being. What was then peeled off abandoned this astral body which was bound up with the form of the winged-serpent; it could no longer have any further development on the Earth. It formed, as a conglomerate substance, the astral sphere of the moon, the so-called eighth sphere. The moon actually provides shelter for astral beings which have come into existence through the fact that man has thrown something off.

This union of the paternal spirit with the maternal substance was described in Egypt as the union of Osiris and Isis. From it came forth Horus. The merging of the serpent form with the etheric head, with the newly acquired astral body and head formation, led to the conception of the form of the sphinx. The sphinx is the expression of this thought in sculpture.

There were seven kinds or classes of such forms, all of which differed somewhat from each other, from the finest, approximating to the highly developed formation of the human form down to those which were utterly grotesque. These seven kinds of human forms had all to be fructified. One must conceive the descent of the ‘Sons of Manas’ in this pictorial way. Only then can one understand how the astral body of man came into existence. It is composed of two different members.

If we consider human development we shall find that the one part of the astral body is continually endeavouring to overcome the other half, the lower nature, and transform it. In so far as man today consists of astral body with etheric body and physical body, it is in fact only the physical body which in its present state is a product which has reached completion. In the case of the etheric body also there are two parts that seek to merge into one another.

Now when man dies he gives over to the forces of the earth his whole physical body, but the etheric body divides itself into two members. The one member is derived from the upper formation and this man takes with him. The remainder falls away, for over this he can exert no mastery; it came to him from outside. He can only exert mastery over it when he has become an occult pupil. This part of the etheric body therefore in the case of the ordinary person is given over to the etheric forces of cosmic space.

What clings to the person from that astral body which came with him from the Old Moon compels him to spend a period of time in Kamaloka until he has freed himself from this point as regards that particular life. Then he still has that part of the astral body which has found a state of balance; with this he makes his journey through Devachan and back to physical life. This is why one sees bell-like formations in astral space rushing about with terrific speed. These are the human souls again seeking incarnation. When here with us such a bell-like human being darts through astral space and an embryo in South America is karmically connected with it, this human bell must immediately be there. So these returning souls rush through astral space. This bell formation is reminiscent of those which appeared in the Lemurian Age, only it has already found its state of balance with the higher astral body. We know that the human being develops by working from the ego upon the three other bodies. The ego is nothing other than what worked at that time in a fructifying way; the upper auric part with the etheric head. The members which the human being has developed are the physical body, the etheric body, the astral body.

Upper Etheric or Mental body
Astral body as Buddhi
Astral body
Lower Etheric body
Physical body

The physical body has arisen through a transformation and ennobling of that serpent-like body which we meet with in the Lemurian Age. This was male-female. The present day human being is also male-female. In the case of a man the basis of the upper members is female, with a woman the basis of the upper etheric body is of male formation. So actually the physical nature of the human being is also male-female.

The etheric body consists of two members, that part of human nature which originally came over from the Old Moon and its opposite pole. They were at first not yet joined together; later they approached one another and became united. The one is the pole of animality, the other the pole of the spiritual. The pole of animality is called ‘etheric body’, the pole of the spiritual, ‘mental-body’. The mental body is materialised ether.

Between them is the astral body and this too has arisen out of the union of a duality. Fundamentally it is also a two-fold formation. We have to differentiate in it a lower and a higher nature. The higher nature was originally connected with the mental body. This part of the astral body which has its seat in the mental body—what therefore has come into it from above—is the other pole of the lower astral body. One of the characteristics of the lower astral body is that it has desires. The upper part has instead of these, devotion, love, the giving virtue. This part of the astral body is called Buddhi. The description here given of the human being is as seen in this way in the Cosmic Light. When man himself works into his sheathes it is different. The one portrays his cosmic structure, the other how he himself works into it.

Thus Buddhi is the ennobled astral, the Mental the ennobled etheric and the Physical has its opposite pole in Atma.