11 June 1906, Paris
To gain an idea of this evolution we must have recourse not to abstractions but to pictures, for pictures have a living, creative quality that is not contained in the pure idea. The picture is a symbol in one world but corresponds to a reality in a higher world.
We know that before developing to its present stage, our Earth passed through a phase called the Old Moon period. But this Old Moon phase of evolution is not to be confused with the satellite we now see in the sky, nor to any other planet that astronomy might ever discover. The heavenly bodies visible today are bodies which have been mineralised. The human eye can only see objects which contain mineral elements and reflect the light, in other words, objects which have a physical body. When the occultist speaks of the mineral kingdom, he is not merely referring to the stones but to the milieu at the central core of which the consciousness of man unfolds. Many scholars regard living beings as mere machines and reject the idea of a vital force. This mentality is a result of the fact that our organism is unable really to behold life. The occultist, on the other hand, says that in our age man lives in the mineral world.
Think of the human eye. It is a highly complicated mechanism, a kind of ‘dark chamber,’ with the pupil as a window and the crystalline as a lens. The whole body of man is composed of a number of physical organs, equally delicate and complicated. The ear is like a harpsichord with a key-board and fibres for strings. And the same may be said of every sense-organ.
The consciousness of modern man is only awakened if connection is established with his physical or mineral body. True, it awakens first in the physical world, but it must none the less gradually light up in the other members of man's being — in the member that is constituted by the life-forces (the plant-nature of man), in the member that is chiefly dominated by the forces of feeling (the animal-nature), and finally in the Ego.
Truth to tell, man only knows what is mineral in the universe. He does not know the essential laws underlying the animal's life of instinct and feeling, and the growth of plants. He simply sees their physical expressions. Try to conceive a plant in super physical existence, having lost its mineral substance — it would be invisible to our physical eyes.
But even though man knows only the mineral, at least he has it in his power. He works it, moulds it, smelts and combines it. He fashions the face of the Earth anew. He is able to do this in our age with the help of machines. If we go back to remote historic ages when as yet no human hand had been laid on the Earth, we find it as it issued from the hands of the Gods. But ever since man began to exercise control over the mineral kingdom, the Earth has been changing, and we may foresee an age when the whole face of the Earth — which at the beginning was the work of the Gods — will have received the stamp imparted by the hand of man.
In the beginning, form was given to all created things by the Gods. This power of giving form has passed from the Gods to men, in so far as the mineral kingdom is concerned. In ancient traditions it was taught that man must accomplish the task of transforming the Earth in fulfillment of a threefold goal, namely the realisation of truth, beauty, goodness. It is for man to make the Earth into a temple of truth, beauty and goodness. And then, those who come after him will look upon his work as we now look upon the mineral world which came forth from the hands of the Gods. Neither cathedrals nor machines have been built in vain. The Gods have given form to the crystal which we extract from the Earth, just as we build our monuments and our machines. Just as in the past the Gods created the mineral world from a chaotic mass, so our cathedrals, inventions and even our institutions are the germs from which a future world will come to birth.
Having transformed the mineral world, man will learn to transform the plants. This denotes a higher power. Today, man erects buildings; in future times he will be able to create and give shape to plant-life by working upon plant-substance. At a still higher stage, he will give form not only to living beings but to conscious beings. He will have power over animal life. When he has reached the stage of being able to reproduce his like by an act of conscious will, he will accomplish, at a higher level, what he accomplishes today in the mineral world.
The germ of this sublime power of generation, cleansed of all element of sensuality, is the word. Man became a conscious being when he drew his first breath; consciousness will reach its stage of perfection when he is able to pour into the words he utters, the same creative power with which his thought is endowed today. In this age, it is only words that he communicates to the air. When he has reached the stage of higher creative consciousness, he will be able to communicate images to the air. The word will then be an Imagination — wholly permeated with life. In giving body to these images, he will be giving body to the word which bears and sustains the image. When we no longer simply embody our thoughts in objects, as for instance when we make a watch, but give body to these images, they will live.
And when man knows how to impart life to what is highest in him, these ‘images’ will lead a real and actual existence, comparable to animal existence. At the highest stage of evolution, man will thus be able, finally, to reproduce his own being. At the end of the process of the Earth's transformation, the whole atmosphere will resound with the power of the Word. Thus man must evolve to a stage where he will have the power to mould his environment in the image of his inner being. The initiate only precedes him along this path.
It is evident that the Earth today cannot produce human bodies such as will be produced at the final stage of evolution. When that final stage has come, these bodies will be a fit expression of the Logos. The one great Messenger, He alone Who manifested in a human body like our own, this power of the Logos, is Christ. He came at the central turning-point of evolution, to reveal its goal.
And now let us enquire into the form in which the Spirit of man lived before this Spirit entered into him by way of the breath. The Earth is a reincarnation of an earlier planet — of the Old Moon. In this lunar period of evolution, the pure mineral did not yet exist. The planetary body was composed of a substance somewhat akin to the nature of wood a substance midway between the mineral and the plant. Its surface was not hard like the mineral — indeed it was liken to turf. It brought forth beings by nature half-plant, half-mollusc, and was inhabited by a third kingdom of beings at a stage of existence midway between the human being and animal. These beings were endowed with a dreamlike, imaginative consciousness. We can envisage the kind of matter of which their ‘bodies’ were composed, by thinking of the nerve-substance of the crayfish. This matter densified to become the substance of which the brain is now composed. On the Old Moon, this matter remained in a more fluid state but on Earth it required a protective sheath of bone — the skull. In this sense, all the substances of which we are composed are ‘extracts’ of the macrocosm. All this preparatory activity in the universe was necessary in order that the Ego might descend into man.
We have heard that man was only ready to receive the germ of his Ego, when, on Earth, he began to breathe the air around him. Did he then breathe on the Moon?
The further we go back in the periods of evolution, the higher the temperature. Atlantis was bathed in hot vapours. In earlier times still, the air was pure warmth; before that again, fire. Fire was there in the place of air. The Lemurians breathed fire. That is why it is said in occult writings that the first Teachers of men were the Spirits of Fire. When physical man appeared on the Earth, air became his element of life. But man changes this air, in that he transforms it into carbonic acid and the breathing-process has thus caused the materialisation of our globe to descend still one degree lower. The equilibrium is restored by the plant-world.
In times to come, the physical body will disappear; man and the Earth will live as astral forms. Physical substance destroys itself by its own forces. But before this metamorphosis comes about, a cosmic night will fall, just as a previous cosmic night marked the transition of the Old Moon evolution to that of our present Earth.
The atmosphere of the Moon contained nitrogen, just as today the atmosphere of the Earth contains oxygen, and it was the predominance of nitrogen which brought about the end of the Old Moon period and the onset of a cosmic night. The cyanides on Earth are survivals from the conditions existing at the final stages of the Old Moon evolution. That is why they have a destructive effect on Earth, for the Earth is not their proper sphere. They are the poisonous remains of life in another age.
Animal-man, as he lived on the old Moon, is thus the ancestor of earthly, physical man; the Spirit within man is the offspring of the Spirits of Fire in the lunar period. The Beings who on the Old Moon were incarnate in the fire, incarnated, on Earth, in the air. But now, has anything of the action of these Spirits of Fire remained in man? On the Old Moon, living beings had no warm blood. What was it that gave rise to the warmth of the blood and, as a consequence, to the life of passions? — The fire which was inbreathed by the beings of the Old Moon and which lives again on Earth in their blood. And the Spirit of the air surrounds the body which contains the heritage of the Old Moon evolution, namely, the warmth of the blood, the brain, the spinal fluid, the nerves.
These examples serve to show that a close study of the transformation of substances is required before we can begin to understand the great processes of metamorphosis which took place during the earlier periods of the Earth's evolution. At a stage still earlier than that of the Old Moon, the planetary sphere which has now become our Earth had a body composed merely of gaseous substance; before that again, we can only speak of a body of sound. It is in this sound — the Cosmic Word — that man's evolution has its origin, proceeding thence towards light, fire, air. Only in the fourth condition does consciousness flash up in the Spirit of man. From this point onwards, the directing force bestowed by the Logos has its rise from within man's own being and his conscience becomes his rightful guide. His primordial being comes to expression in the ‘I,’ the Ego. The conscious Ego is the realisation in man of the Christ Principle.