Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

The Foundations of Esotericism
GA 93a

Lecture XXVIII

Berlin, 31st October 1905

We will give you yet another special example of how one can immerse oneself in the profundity of religious documents and gain an ever greater understanding of what they contain.

If we study our sense organs as they are usually studied, we see that we have the possibility through the sense of smell of perceiving matter itself. Unless this fine substance were given off, man would be unable to smell. What takes place here is a connection with matter itself. The organ of taste is not connected with matter itself, but acts through a process of dissolving and perceiving its effect. Thus we can call taste a chemical sense, because it penetrates into the constitution of matter. The third sense that of sight, has nothing more to do with matter, for it only perceives pictures that are produced by matter. The fourth, the sense of touch, has still less to do with matter as such, for it only perceives attributes of the surroundings in connection with objects, such as warmth and cold; this is a state of matter which is no longer dependent on matter itself, but on what conditions surround it. Hearing is in no way dependent on the air, for we perceive only the oscillations, the vibrations of the air, something which stands in a quite external relationship to what is material. Matter, the air, is only the vehicle for the sound waves.

The lowest perception of matter is smell, then comes taste, then sight, then touch and hearing. We can now ask: What is warmth and cold? It is what is contained in the warmth ether. So the sense of touch perceives the warmth ether, sight perceives the light ether, taste perceives the chemical ether, smell perceives the atomistic or life ether, hearing perceives the air. A sixth and a seventh sense74Compare with lecture 9 and the development of the pineal and pituitary glands. which will only develop in the future, would perceive water and earth.

We have therefore in our senses a sequence of stages in connection with what we call matter. We will first follow the development of our three lower senses.

The sense of sight perceives by means of the light ether the objects around us. There was however a time when everything was dark. Let us go back to the moment of time when sight came into existence and the outer world as such became perceptible to us. Previously the eye was not yet opened to the outer world. We must imagine the same force which the eye receives from outside in the light ether, pouring outwards from within, streaming out through the eye in the opposite direction. If this were the case the being would illuminate the others around him. This was so at a certain time when human beings possessed eyes like the Cyclops. Illumination was brought about through the out streaming light; this light streamed from within outwards. Then man illuminated, as many sea creatures still do today, the objects around him and his own body. At that time he had no consciousness of his own, but he was solely an instrument for the corresponding divine being, in order to illuminate the world for him. The divine being had no means of seeing the surrounding objects other than human eyes.

When as yet man had no intellect it was possible for the active light of the Godhead to pass through him and illuminate objects. The human being was the mediator for the Godhead. The latter wished by means of light to make the solid objects visible. Because the light passed through him, man himself was formed. Before the light had passed through the human being the Godhead had no need of light, because the objects were not yet solid, but fluid, so that no use could be made of light. That is the condition described in the Bible: ‘And darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the spirit of God brooded on the face of the waters.’ At that time the world was simply water, even gold and silver and the other metals ran, were fluid. When within the water, like blocks of ice, solid objects arose, man separated his membered form and light became necessary. God said: ‘Let there be light and there was light.’ Then it was that man too first received his form. That is the moment when the Light Ether was introduced and the solid element separated off. God said: ‘Let the dry land appear.’ Before that everything was of a watery nature. In the same way as the Light Ether was incorporated into the solid element, so was the Chemical Ether incorporated into the water. Chemical relationships were worked into man when he was still fluid. The chemical relationships according to which today the different substances are combined, were imprinted into the individual. Then we come back into a condition when man and also the whole Earth was still aeriform; the life, or the atomistic ether flowed into him. The life ether was at that time introduced into the world through man.

Now let us once more turn our attention to the condition which existed when God said: ‘Let there be Light.’ The Earth began to densify. Light shone upon it. This was also the time when man began to densify. The earlier forces however had to be retained. Now we have reached the condition when man let the light pass through himself. Then a complete reversal took place. Man began to perceive the light as something outside.

Originally through him there had been introduced into this world:

  1. The atomistic or life ether.
  2. The chemical ether.
  3. The light ether.


  1. Perception of the life ether.
  2. Perception of the chemical ether.
  3. Perception of the light ether.

Now man receives back the light from the world. (Reversal of the spiral.) Formerly he was a source of light, now the light streamed into him. He had become self-enclosed; thereby he acquired consciousness. The light shone into him; man began to let the surrounding world reflect itself in him. The next stage is that he learns to recognise objects with regard to their chemical constitution. He developed sympathy or antipathy for substances, a relationship to the world outside him. Then finally he also gained an inner perception of the atomistic or life-ether.

Through the introduction of light into the world man acquired his solid form. Through the introduction of the chemical ether he acquired a relationship to the world. Through the introduction of the atomistic ether he acquired life. Thus through the eyes he acquired form; through the sense of taste, relationship to the world; through the sense of smell, the nose, life. Jehovah breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.

When we approach religious writings with such ideas we find that the most profound truths have been placed into them. We shall see whether originally these truths were placed into the religious writings as we now have them.

Let us take for example the builder of the Gotthard Tunnel and then a man who describes it. The builder, who actually constructed the Gotthard Tunnel did not need perhaps to possess such a high degree of engineering science in his conscious self, but he actually brought a thought into reality. Such is the relationship between the wise men of ancient times and those of today. At that time they possessed a creative wisdom. Now we have a wisdom based on observation. The creative wisdom is that wisdom which once made man, building up one after another those parts which today the anatomist takes out and describes. The creative wisdom is exactly the same as the wisdom which can be discovered today; it has been placed into the world. In the primeval wisdom man was concerned with the plan of the world. Now you can understand why the mystic has to withdraw into himself. The true mystic must be an investigator of the inner. He attempts to seek out those stages of evolution through which he has been created.

If we were able completely to shut off all light from the eyes and then to create light within us, until the world appeared illumined from within outwards, then we should be able to immerse ourselves inwardly in the creative wisdom and penetrate into everything with inner vision. This has a practical value, for one can remember how in actual fact man has been built up by having passed through the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms: all this is also within him. What is outside in the world is the remains of what man himself once was.

The human heart as it came into being was akin to what had taken place outside. The moment one sinks oneself into the heart, one creates for oneself the surroundings as they were when in the Lemurian Age the heart came into existence. If one concentrates on the activity of the heart, one can conjure up the entire environment of the Lemurian Age when the heart was formed. The Lemurian landscape rises up within us. Whoever concentrates on the heart sees the genesis of the human species.

Through concentration on the interior of the brain, which developed gradually during the Atlantean Age, one sees the Atlantean landscape appear. If one concentrates on the solar plexus one is led to the Hyperboreans. So one travels back into the worlds as they once were. This is no brooding in oneself, but an actual perception of the various organs in their relationships with the world. This is the way in which Paracelsus found his remedies and achieved his cures. He knew that digitalis purpurea came into being at the same time as the human heart. Through concentration on a particular organ, corresponding remedies reveal themselves. Thus do the members of the macrocosm and the microcosmic nature of man stand in relationship to each other.

Now the following is easy to understand. The human being receives warm red blood as do also the higher animals. That is to say, from then on man can separate himself from his surroundings, becoming independent, a whole enclosed within itself. This the fish is not. The fish has the same temperature as what surrounds it. With the warm red blood it became possible for man to develop warmth within himself. Then he was able to separate himself from his environment. Previously he was of the same temperature as his surroundings. What is it that actually occurred?

Let us consider the undifferentiated human organism before the Lemurian Age. There was a uniform temperature over the whole Earth. The state of warmth within man was the same as the state of warmth outside.

Then the inner warmth condition was heightened. This warmth condition signified individual warmth, warmth which was made use of in individualisation; and in the world outside the opposite came about: warmth, fire was distributed. Previously there was as yet no outer fire. To kindle fire in Nature first became possible when fire appeared within man. Since that time there was the beneficent fire distributed outside, and within man the egoistic fire.

And now we have the point of time when fire was withdrawn from spiritual beings for the benefit of man. Human beings drew their warmth from a particular kind of spiritual being—the Agni. Because of this, what was previously there as Fire-Spirit in the world had to withdraw and from then on could only appear from time to time in the form of fire. The Promethean-Saga is based on this fact. The god had lost his previous body and created for himself a new one in the external fire. Here we have an outstanding example of how in a certain way man works destructively on the elemental forces of Nature. Man himself had called forth the element of fire in that he had become an individualised being. This underlies the occult saying that, fundamentally speaking, man works destructively where elemental beings are concerned. This is very far-reaching and makes clear to us how man still today continually creates new conditions, new forces of Nature in his world around him, while he himself progresses in his development. He shapes the structure of the Earth. Fire arose in the Lemurian Age; because of this Lemuria could meet its destruction through fire which man himself had created.

The Atlantean Continent perished through water. The downfall of the Fifth Continent will be brought about through evil. We can observe a kind of retrogression in the following way:

The next stage—during the Atlantean Age—was the creative work of the human being on his own etheric body. There he had drawn air from his environment into himself. In this way he had so changed his ether body that the conditions of Atlantis had become quite different. During Atlantis the surface of the Earth was at one time only mist, an atmosphere of such a kind that a rainbow would have been impossible. At that time man worked upon the water. In the Lemurian Age he worked upon solid earth, this brought forth fire; in the Atlantean Age he worked upon the water; this brought about light. (it corresponded to the light of our intellect.) Then he worked upon the air.

The Fifth Root-Race will bring man to his downfall through what must be called evil. Then comes the Sixth Root-Race. The Fifth Root-Race is that in which Manas develops on the physical plane.

In the Old Indian civilisation man lived in a condition corresponding to Manas in a kind of deep trance-like state. There the primeval wisdom was revealed to the ancient Indians by the Rishis. The second revelation took place with the Persians in a condition similar to our deep sleep. In this condition man heard the Word. It was the condition of the Ancient Persian Sleep-trance. ‘Honover’ was the word used by the Persians.

Third revelation: The peoples of the near East, Babylonians and Egyptians, perceived through Manas in picture-consciousness; they had visions or dream-sight.

Fourth revelation: Clear waking-day consciousness was developed by the Semites, the Greeks and Romans. At that time Manas was perceived in clear day-consciousness, as incarnated man, Christ Jesus.

So with the ancient Indians we find the trance of the physical body. With the ancient Persians we find the deep sleep of the etheric body. With the peoples of the Near East we find the picture consciousness of the astral body, with the Semites, Greek and Roman peoples the waking consciousness of the ego.

Now in the Fifth Sub-Race man does not perceive the changing stages of Manas, but this Race sees as the highest stage the psychic experience of concepts as such. Our Sub-Race has developed the psychic Manas, the usual scientific knowledge.

The Sixth Sub-Race will develop a Super-psychic Manas. What with human beings today is merely a kind of knowledge will become actual reality, a social force. The Sixth Sub-Race has the task of permeating society in a social way with everything which has been produced by the preceding stages of evolution. Then for the first time Christianity will come forth as shaper of the social order. The Sixth Sub-Race will be the one which is the germinal foundation for the Sixth Root-Race. The Fifth Root-Race is descended from the original Semites, from the Fifth Sub-Race of the Fourth Root-Race. This people developed the individual ego which produces egoism. Man owes his independence to the original Semites. Man must first find himself, but then again must also surrender himself He must surrender himself to what makes thought a reality. The Sixth Sub-Race is destined to replace blood relationship with Manas relationship, relationship in the spirit. Thinking which is altruistic will develop the predisposition to the overcoming of egoism.

The Seventh Sub-Race will be a premature birth. It will make outwardly real too soon and too strongly what has come forth from Manas.

In the Sixth Sub-Race the predisposition will be given for the overcoming of egoism, but in such a way that the balance is held between selfhood and selflessness. The man of the Sixth Sub-Race, will neither lose himself in what is outside, nor shut himself up in what is within. With the Seventh Sub-Race a kind of hypertrophy will come about. Man will then pour out what he now has within him: his egoism. On the other hand the members of the Sixth Sub-Race will hold the balance. The Seventh Sub-Race will harden egoism. Later the English-American people will be projected as something rigidified into the Sixth Root-Race, just as today the Chinese are a rigidified residue of the Atlantean Age, the Fourth Root-Race.

World-egoism proceeds from the Anglo-American Race. From that direction the whole Earth will be overlaid with egoism. It is from England and America that all the discoveries come that will cover the Earth like a network of egoism. So it is from there that the whole Earth will be covered by a network of egotistic evil. But from a small colony in the East [The Slavonic peoples.] there will be developed, as though from a seed, new life for the future.

The English-American civilisation consumes European culture. The sects in England and America represent nothing other than the most incredible conservation of what is old. But such Societies as the Salvation Army, the Theosophical Society and so on, come into existence just there, in order to rescue souls from decadence, for race evolution does not run parallel with soul evolution. But the race itself is going towards its destruction. Within it is the seed of the evil race.

In the Fourth Sub-Race work was performed as tribute (Slave Labour).
In the Fifth Sub-Race work is performed as a commodity (sold).
In the Sixth Sub-Race work will be performed as an offering (free work).75See Anthroposophy and the Social Question which appeared at about the same time in the periodical Luzifer-Gnosis.

The economic needs of existence will then be separated from work: there will be no more personal possession, everything will be owned in common. One will no longer work for one's personal existence, but will do everything as absolute offering for humanity.