Universe, Earth and Man
I. The Egyptian period, and the present time.
4 Aug 1908, Stuttgart
In the first lecture of this course we shall try to give, by way of introduction, an outline of the subject before us. We shall not as yet enter fully into this, but will first give an outline of those things of which we shall speak during the next few days. We have a very extensive theme before us; Universe, Earth, and Man, and I propose to give a brief sketch of all the knowledge we can acquire concerning the visible and invisible worlds.
Our feelings are borne into the farthest distance of the cosmos when, in the deepest and most worthy sense, we make use of the expression “Universe.” “Earth” indicates the field of action upon which humanity is now placed, upon which we are to work and live, and the mission of which we ought to understand. Lastly, the word “Man” — a word we here wish to understand in its occult sense indicates that which the mystics of all ages meant when they made use of the expression, “O man, know thyself!”
We also have a sub-title to our subject. Having set ourselves such a highly important task, this sub-title is in a certain way justified; for when we consider the connection between that wonderful pre-Christian civilization — the Egyptian — and our own, we see how mysterious are the forces permeating human life. Three ages of human effort and research, of human development, morals, and life, rise before us when we consider Egyptian civilization and that of our own day. When we speak of Egyptian civilization in the occult sense we mean the civilization that had its seat in the north-east of Africa, on the banks of the Nile, which lasted for thousands of years and terminated in the eighth century before Christ. We know that this civilization was followed by another which we call the Greco-Latin. This was centred on the one hand in the wonderful Greek race, with their highly cultivated sense of beauty, and on the other hand in the powerful state of Rome. We also know that in this age occurred the mighty event in earthly evolution which we know as the advent of Christ Jesus. Then followed the age in which we are now living.
First the Egyptian age with all that belonged to it — and a great deal belonged to it — then the Greco-Latin age with its great results — the rise of Christianity — and then our present age. These are the three ages which come before our mental eyes when we consider the sub-title of these lectures.
It will be shown that there was an interplay of mysterious forces between the age of civilization first mentioned and our own. It is as if in the Egyptian age certain seeds were sown in the breast of gradually developing humanity, seeds which remained hidden during the Greco-Latin age and have reappeared in a special manner in the present one. Much of that which buds in our souls today, much of that which surrounds us, and of which people speak and dream, has sprung like seed from the ancient Egyptian civilization without our people being aware of it.
You are all more or less acquainted with the telegraphic apparatus. You know that wires connecting the different apparatuses extend from one place to another, and without having any deep knowledge of these things you understand that the force which sets the apparatus in motion has something to do with the force which flows through the wires. You perhaps also know that there is a connection down in the earth, that the ends of the wires are connected with the earth; but this subterranean connection is invisible because it is made by more or less mysterious forces produced by the earth itself. Something similar exists as a deep mystery in the development of man. In history we see threads being spun which lie within the invisible world. By means of history and of occultism we can trace out that which took place in ancient Egypt. We see how the threads of culture stretch from the Greek age, the Roman, the Christian, down into our own age. All these are guided by a kind of connection that takes place above the earth, but there is also a hidden, a subterranean force which works more or less directly from the ancient Egyptian age into our own. Many a remarkable secret is revealed to us when we follow these connections and examine them thoroughly.
To begin with I shall indicate briefly the special facts referred to in the sub-title of our theme. When we look back to ancient Egypt and observe a few of the mighty records there we are struck by the Pyramids, for example, and also the Sphinx — that wonderful and enigmatic figure. Then we let our glance pass on to ancient Greece. Here the Greek temple appears with its unique architecture, we can see and admire what we know from history of this wonderful land; we see its sculptures, those great, ideal, and perfect human forms described as gods: Zeus, Demeter, Pallas Athene, Apollo. Then we turn to the ancient kingdom of the Romans. Something remarkable appears when we thus allow our vision to sweep from the ancient Grecian peninsula to the Italian. Before us appear the figures of ancient Rome, many of which are still preserved; we see forms clothed with the toga, which is indeed more than a mere outer dress. What do we feel with regard to these Roman figures? One might say regarding certain of those belonging to the Roman Republic that one feels as if the ideal forms of the Greeks had descended from their pedestals and had appeared before us as men of flesh and blood. What we are made to see is their inner power; we recognize what lies in this inner power when we compare that which developed in ancient Rome with the feeling, the thought, the content of a figure belonging to the Grecian States — that of a Spartan or an Athenian, for example. We feel what this figure contains. The men belonging to Sparta or Athens felt that they were first of all Spartans or Athenians. Being provided in a certain way and to a certain degree with a common soul, the Spartan or Athenian felt more what we might call the Greek spirit than his own personality; he felt himself more as a Spartan or as an Athenian, than as an individual human citizen; he felt the power that worked so strongly in him proceeded more from the common spirit of the people than from his own personal power. The Roman on the contrary appears to us as being placed somewhat more exactly upon the centre of his own personality. Hence in the Roman kingdom there appears something very special, namely the comprehension of the rights of the citizen. All that lawyers dream regarding the origin of “justice” previous to this is very different from what in times of better research was rightly called “Roman Law.”
In ancient Rome man learned to regard himself as an individual, he stood upon his own two feet, no longer as one belonging to a certain town, but as a Roman citizen; that is to say he felt himself placed upon the centre of his own human nature. With this feeling of individuality the time came when what was spiritual in man descended to earth. Previously it was perceived as hovering, so to speak, above him in spiritual regions. There is something unique in Roman law and in Roman civilization. Let us consider the circumstance that the Greek felt himself primarily as a Spartan or as an Athenian. What was the spirit of Athens or of Sparta? For us Anthroposophists this was no abstraction, but something like a spiritual cloud, which in its turn was the spiritual expression of a spiritual being in which the town of Athens or Sparta was embedded; but this being was not visible upon the physical plane. The Greek looked primarily not to himself, but to something above him, the Roman looked primarily to himself. It was he who first recognized man as the highest creature that can take on fleshly form upon the physical plane. The spirit had come completely down into humanity. This was the time when the Divinity Itself could descend into human evolution and incarnate in Jesus Christ.
The manner in which Egyptian civilization extended into the Greco-Roman age was a very wonderful process. We recall how Moses, when he received in Egypt the commission from higher realms to guide his people to the “One God,” asked God — “What shall I say to my people when they ask who sent me?” And how God answered (and we shall see what deep truth lay hidden in the statement) — “Say to those to whom I send thee, ‘I AM’ hath sent me unto you. Thus ‘I AM’ is the name of an individual God who worked and ruled at that time as the Christ Principle in spiritual heights, and who had not yet descended to the physical plane. To whom did this voice belong which could make itself perceptible to the initiate Moses, saying to him, as it were from spiritual worlds, “I am the ‘I AM’”? It was exactly the same Being (and this is the secret of the ancient Greek Mysteries) — it was the same Being who appeared later in the flesh as the Christ: only afterwards He was visible to those around Him, while previously He could speak only through Initiates from spiritual heights.
Thus we see the Deity — that which was Spiritual — gradually descending after humanity had been prepared, after it had learnt in the Roman age the importance of embodiment in the flesh and its manifestation on the physical plane. We see how a whole series of the results of civilization develop in an exceedingly profound way from out of that which man received as a new gift at that time. We see how the form of the Pyramids and the Temple change to that of the Roman church — another record of inner human creative work. We see how from the sixth century the Cross with the dead Jesus makes its appearance; and how by degrees out of the stream of Christianity a remarkable figure evolves whose mysteries are very deeply veiled. We need only call up this figure before our eyes in the wonderful form given to it by the painter's art in the Sistine Madonna, by Raphael.
Everyone knows this wonderful figure of the Virgin in the centre of the picture, carrying the child in her arms, and we have certainly all experienced a corresponding emotional thrill when confronted by it. I would ask you, however, to note one thing with regard to it which expresses the spiritual striving of humanity at the stage with which we are dealing — the three civilizations mentioned above. It is not for nothing that the artist has surrounded the Madonna with a cloud out of which develop a great number of similar little children, a crowd of angelic forms. Let us now allow our feeling to be completely absorbed by this picture of the Madonna. Anyone whose emotion is sufficiently deep for him to be able to do this will feel and perceive that there is here something very different from what an ordinary profane intellect will see in the picture. Do not these cloud-angels surrounding the Madonna say something to us? Yes, they say something of the greatest significance if we do but consider them deeply enough. When we allow ourselves to sink deeply into this picture, something whispers in our soul, “Here before us is a miracle in the best sense of the word.” We do not think that this child whom the Madonna bears in her arms is born in the ordinary way from the woman. No! These wonderfully delicate angel-forms we see in the clouds seem to be in process of development, and the child in the Madonna's arms seems to be only a more condensed manifestation of them, like something that had crystallized somewhat more than these fleeting angel-forms, which seems as if brought down from the clouds and held fast in her arms. It is thus this child appears to us, and not as if born from the woman. We are directed to a mysterious connection between the child and the virgin mother. If we call up the picture thus before our souls, another virgin mother appears to our mental vision: the ancient Egyptian Isis, with the child Horus, and we may become aware of a mysterious connection between the Christian Madonna and the Egyptian figure on whose temple was written the words, “I AM, which is, and which was, and which is to come my veil no mortal can raise.”
That which we have hinted at as a miracle in the picture of the Madonna is also revealed in the Egyptian myth, for it there describes Horus as not having been born through conception, but tells how a beam of light fell from Osiris upon Isis, a kind of miraculous birth took place, and the child Horus appeared. Here again we see how threads connect one thing with another; what we are here able to investigate is without any earthly connection.
Let us now pass on to where our own age begins. Let us think of the Gothic cathedral with its wondrous construction of pointed arches, let us call to mind what took place there in the Middle Ages, in gatherings where true believers met true priests. Think of the effect of this Gothic cathedral with its many coloured panes of glass through which the sunlight penetrates; think, how many of those who were able to speak of the deeper secrets of the world's evolution could let tones ring forth, whose outward image was the wonderful light split thus into varied colours. Again and again it happened that the priests showed how the common power of the Divine Being was imparted to humanity in separate rays of power, split up like the light which streamed in through the coloured windows. The partition of the light was placed before men's senses, and in their souls was aroused that which lay spiritually at the back of this symbol. In this way the Gothic cathedral pervaded the powers of perception, and of feeling, of the worshippers.
Let us now enter more deeply into what is thus pictured in our minds. Let us first consider the Egyptian Pyramid — a most characteristic form of architecture! We must exert ourselves mentally in order to discover what it has to say to us. By degrees we shall see how in the pyramid the secret of the World, Earth, and Man is expressed; we shall see that there is expressed in it what the Egyptian priest felt according to his form of religion. Later we shall penetrate deeply into all these things; today we will only notice what such a priest felt, and imparted to his people in pictures. The wisdom expressed in the Egyptian form of religion was very profound; it was the direct result of ancient tradition; it was like a memory, and the Egyptian sage in his meeting with Solon could say with truth: “Oh ye Greeks, ye remain children all your lives, and in your childish souls is none of the ancient truth!” He refers here to the age of wisdom in Egypt. From whence came this wisdom?
Our present humanity was preceded, as you know, by another which dwelt upon a continent over which the billows of the Atlantic Ocean now roll. When the great Atlantean flood took place, the knowledge of the Atlanteans was carried towards the East across present-day Europe. The northern myths have remained behind as remembrances of the wisdom of Atlantis. We know that the successors of the Atlanteans carried the wisdom of ancient India and Persia into Asia. We also know that Egyptian wisdom was partly re-animated by Asia, but that it also streamed directly from the West, from Atlantis, towards Africa.
Now what sort of wisdom was it that was referred to by the ancient sage when he spoke of the “ancient truth”? This will be disclosed if for a moment we pause to consider the difference between life today and life in ancient Atlantis. At that time man was gifted with a dim clairvoyance, around him he saw beings who are also around us today, but whom present day man sees no longer. The earth does not contain only plants, minerals, and animals; spiritual beings are also around us, but these are visible only to clairvoyant eyes. In Atlantis at that time man was normally clairvoyant, divine beings were his companions, he lived with them as we now live with human beings. There was not as yet that sharp distinction between day-consciousness and night-consciousness there is now. At the present time when man enters in the morning, with his astral body and ego, into physical life physical objects are around him; and when at night he rises out of his physical body this world becomes dark and dim to him. This is the case today with the normal human being; but in Atlantis it was not so, particularly in its earliest periods. When at night man stepped out of his physical and etheric body darkness did not then spread around him; he entered a world of spiritual beings and he saw these divine spiritual forms just as he now sees fleshly forms. He saw Baldur, Wotan, Zeus, and Apollo — who are not imaginary, fanciful figures, but are the expression of real beings who, at the time of which we are speaking, had not taken on bodies of flesh, but possessed as their densest form transparent etheric bodies. When at night man withdrew from his physical body these were around him as etheric forms; and when in the morning he again drew into his physical body he was in the world of reality which today is for him the only world; he left for a time, one might say, the world of the Gods and dipped down into the world of physical, fleshly existence. There was no strict boundary between his day perception and his night perception, and when in those times the Initiate spoke to ordinary people of these Divine Beings he was not speaking of something that was strange to them. It was the same as when today we speak of men and call them by their names; the Initiate spoke of such Beings as Wotan and Baldur, for they knew them as divine etheric Beings.
The remembrance of that ancient wisdom and of these experiences was carried with them by those who journeyed towards the East; and from them sprang these remembrances which were connected with something else which developed in the peculiar constitution of the Egyptian people — the conviction that an eternal spiritual part dwells in man, and that when his body becomes a corpse it has been forsaken by this divine spiritual part. This conviction is expressed in numerous symbols and teachings which the Egyptian priests gave to the people; it was not merely an abstract truth to them, it was a truth in which they lived, and which they experienced directly.
Let us describe what the Egyptian perceived. He said, “I see here a corpse, the dust of a man who was the bearer of an ego; I know — for I know it from ancient tradition and from the experience of my ancestors — that there is something else, a spiritual part, which passes into other worlds. This could not fulfil its task were it to live solely in that spiritual world. A connecting link must be formed between this spiritual part and the earthly world; we must form a magnetic link for the soul which passes at death into higher realms, in order to arouse in it a feeling of permanence, so that it may return again, and appear once more on this earth.”
We know from the teachings of Spiritual Science that humanity of itself takes care that the soul shall return again and again to new incarnations; we know that when man passes at death into other spheres, during the period in kamaloka (that period during which he weans himself from what is earthly) he is still chained by certain forces to that which is physical. We know that it is these forces which do not allow him to rise at once into the regions of Devachan, and that it is they also which draw him down again to a new incarnation. But we are a people today who live in abstractions, and who represent such things as theories. In ancient Egypt all this lived as tradition. The Egyptian was the reverse of a theorist or mere thinker; he wanted to see with his senses how the soul took its way from the dead body into higher realms, he wanted to have this constructed before him. These thoughts he embodied in the pyramids; the way the soul rises, how it leaves the body, how it is still partly fettered, and how it is led upwards to higher regions. In the architecture of the pyramids we can see the fettering of the soul to what is earthly, we can see how kamaloka with its mysterious forms comes before us, and we can say that, considered externally, it is a symbol of the soul which has left the body and is rising into higher realms.
Let us endeavour to understand these ancient traditions. In the Atlantean age man still saw around him much that is completely hidden from him today. You will recall from previous lectures that in Atlantis the etheric body of man was not so intimately bound up with the physical body as it is now, the etheric head projected far beyond the physical head. In animals this formation has remained to the present day. When a horse is observed clairvoyantly the etheric head may be seen towering upwards as a form of light above the horse's nose and in the case of an elephant a truly remarkable structure can be seen above the trunk. In Atlantean humanity the etheric head was in a somewhat similar position, although not quite so far outside. Later it gradually drew more and more into the physical head, so that now it is about the same size as the latter. On this account the physical head — which was at first only partly governed by the etheric head and still had many forces outside which are today within it — was not yet human to any high degree; it was only in course of development, and still possessed a somewhat lower animal form.
What did the Atlantean see when he looked at a companion during the day? He saw a man with a very receding forehead, very protruding teeth — something that reminded him of an animal but at night when he slept clairvoyant consciousness began, the animal-like form became less distinct, and out of the physical head grew the etheric head, which already had a human form and indeed a very much more beautiful form than we see today. In still more remote times the Atlantean clairvoyant could look back to a period when man's physical form was yet more animal-like though he possessed an etheric body which was entirely human; far more beautiful indeed than the present physical form, which has adapted itself to coarser, denser forces. Now imagine this memory of the Atlantean placed consciously yet symbolically before the people of Egypt. Imagine the Egyptian priest saying to the people: “In Atlantean times your own souls, when you were awake, beheld the human figure with an animal form, but at night there grew out of it an exceedingly beautiful human head.” This memory, presented in sculpture, is the Sphinx. It is only thus that these forms can be understood; we must realize that they are not merely thought-out forms, but realities.
Let us now pass from the Egyptian pyramid to the Greek temple. This temple will only be understood by those who are able to feel that there are forces in space. The Greek possessed this feeling. Anyone studying space from the standpoint of Spiritual Science knows that it is not the absolute void of which our ordinary mathematicians and physicists dream, but that it is differentiated. It is something that is filled with lines, with lines of force in this direction and in that, from above downwards, from right to left, straight and curved lines going in every direction. Space may be felt, it may be penetrated with feeling. He who has such a feeling for space knows why certain old painters could paint the floating angel forms in the pictures of Madonna in a way so wonderfully true to nature; he knows that these angels mutually support each other, just as the planets do in space by their power of attraction. It is quite different when we consider Bocklin's picture “Piety.” Nothing is said here against the excellence of this picture otherwise, but anyone who has preserved the living feeling for space has the sensation that those remarkable angel forms may fall at any moment. The painters of olden times had the perception that belonged to earlier clairvoyance. In modern times this has been lost.
When art still possessed occult traditions these mutually supporting forces which existed in space, which streamed hither and thither, were recognized. They were perceived by those in whose minds the thought of the Greek temple originated. They did not think out these forms, but they perceived the forces streaming through space, and filled them with stone; that which was already there occultly they filled with substance. Hence the Greek temple is a material presentation of actual forces existing in space; a Greek temple is a crystallized space-thought in the purest sense of the word. The result of this was very important; by giving material expression to force forms in space the Greeks gave divine spiritual beings the opportunity of using these material forms. It is no figure of speech but a fact when we say that Gods came down at that time into the Greek temples in order to be among men on the physical plane.
Just as today parents place the physical form, the body of flesh, at the disposal of the child, in order that the spirit can express itself on the physical plane, so something similar took place in the case of the Greek temple. The opportunity was provided for divine spiritual beings to stream down and incarnate in the architectural structure. That is the secret of the Greek temple. God was present in the temple. Those who felt the form of the Greek temple aright felt that there need be no human being anywhere near it, nor in the temple itself, and yet it would not be empty, for God was really present there. The Greek temple is a whole; it is complete in itself, because it has a form which magically draws God into it.
If we now consider a Roman church, especially one with a crypt, we shall see a further development. In the Pyramid we see presented the path the soul takes after death, the outer architectural form for the soul when departing; the Greek temple is the expression of the divine soul which likes to tarry upon the physical plane; the Roman church with its crypt corresponds to the Cross upon which the dead body of Jesus hangs. Humanity at this stage had progressed to an advanced consciousness in spiritual spheres. The bond to what is earthly, the period in kamaloka, is represented by the Pyramids; the victory over the physical form, the victory over death, is expressed in the Cross, and reminds us of the spiritual victory of Christ over death.
Again, a further step is taken to the Gothic Cathedral. Without the pious congregation within, it is incomplete. If we wish to feel it as a whole, then to the pointed arches must be added the folded hands and the upward-streaming feelings they express; not such feelings as are in the crypt, where the memory of the spiritual victory over death is preserved, but victorious feelings, such as the soul perceives who already in the body has felt that it is a victor over death. The soul, victorious over death while in the body, belongs to the Gothic building, which is incomplete if it is not filled with such feelings.
The Greek temple is the body of God; it is complete in itself. The Gothic church is something which requires a congregation; it is not a temple but a “Dom,” a cathedral. The German word “Dom” appears in the English suffix “dom” in the words “kingdom,” “Christendom,” for example. It also lies at the root of the Russian word “Duma.” A dome, or dom, is something in which individual members are gathered together into one congregation. From this we can see how in time human thought and human perception progresses from the Pyramid to the Greek temple, then to the Roman church with its crypt, and afterwards to the Gothic cathedral.
Thus we arrive gradually at our own age, and we shall see how the forces of evolution are at work not only on the surface, but that mysterious occult currents are active also beneath, so that what is taking place today in our civilization appears as a re-embodiment of much that was sown within humanity in ancient Egyptian times.
We will close with a thought which hints at this mysterious connection. What constitutes the materialism of our present civilization? What is the special characteristic of the man who, when he wishes to see something spiritual, has lost the harmony that reconciles faith and knowledge? He sees nothing! He regards the gross, material, physical part of the world; he feels it to be real, that it exists, and he even comes to deny what is spiritual. He believes that man's existence is finished when his corpse lies in the earth; he sees nothing rising up into the spiritual worlds. Can a conception such as this be the outcome of something that was sown at a time when there was a firm faith in the continued life of the soul, such as existed in Egypt? Yes, for it is not in Civilization as in the vegetable kingdom, where like things spring forth again and again from the seed. In civilization one characteristic alternates with another which is apparently dissimilar to it — and yet there may be deeper and more intimate similarities.
The vision of man is confined today to the physical body; he regards this as a reality; he cannot raise himself to that which is spiritual.
The souls who now regard their physical bodies with their eyes, and are unable to rise to what is spiritual, were incarnated among earlier peoples as Greeks, as Romans, and as ancient Egyptians; all that exists in our souls today is the result of what we acquired in previous incarnations.
Imagine your soul back in its Egyptian body. Imagine your soul after death being led up again by way of the Pyramid into higher spheres — but your body held fast as a mummy. This fact had an occult result. The soul had always to look downwards when its mummified body was below; its thoughts were hardened, solidified, they were attracted to the physical world. It was forced to look down from the realms of the spirit upon its embalmed physical body, and in consequence the thought became rooted in it that the physical body had a higher reality than it actually had. Imagine a man, in his soul, looking down at that time upon his mummy. Thought regarding the physical hardened; it passed through repeated incarnations, and now is such that man cannot extricate his thoughts from the physical bodily form.
Materialistic thought is often the result of the embalming of the body.
Thus we see how thoughts and feelings work from one incarnation to another; how civilizations are continued through repeated incarnations, and how they reappear later in entirely different forms. This ought to arouse a faint idea of the countless occult threads which are hidden below the surface.
In this lecture we have indicated briefly the subjects to be dealt with in subsequent lectures. In them our vision shall sweep upwards to the highest regions of those worlds beheld by the Egyptian priests; we shall have to direct our attention to the nature, the goal, and the destiny of man; and we shall understand how such problems as these are solved when we realize that the fruits of one age of civilization reappear in a wonderful and mysterious manner in a subsequent one.