Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Universe, Earth and Man
GA 105

Lecture VI

The Spirits of Form as regents of earthly existence. Participation of the Luciferic beings. The formation of race.

10 Aug 1908, Stuttgart

It belongs to the very nature of our theme that these lectures should proceed in a particular way, that we should approach our goal, as it were, in circles; that starting from the circumference we should draw ever smaller circles to reach that which we desire. Hence it may seem in the beginning as if there were no system in our observations, but by gradually approaching the inner from without we shall arrive at a right understanding of the whole.

In our last lecture we reached a point where we found that the Spirits of Form, or Exusiai as they are called in Christian esotericism, are the special regents of human earthly existence. The heart of the matter is contained in the fact that these Spirits of Form worked in the course of earthly evolution both into the substance and into the soul nature of man. At a certain point of time they reached such a high stage of development that they could no longer make use of the earth as a field of action but, drawing with them the finer forces and substances, they left the earth and formed a new field for their activities on our sun.

What do we mean when we say: “The Spirits of Form are the special regents of earthly existence?” Were these Spirits not already active in the earlier stages of development of our planet, during the Saturn, Sun, and Moon epochs? Yes, they certainly were, but they had then a different field of activity to what they have on the earth. This can be understood when we consider the facts already brought before us.

Upon Saturn the rudiments of the physical body alone existed; neither the etheric nor the astral body had as yet poured into it. Of course the Spirits of Form, of whom Jehovah is one, were active even at that time; but, to make use of a trivial expression, they had not then such a well-prepared foundation on which to work. Only through the Spirits of Wisdom giving man an etheric body on the Sun, and the Spirits of Motion giving him an astral body on the Moon, did the Spirits of Form find a sufficiently prepared human being on which they could work on earth. For only when man possessed a physical, an etheric, and an astral body within himself could the Spirits of Form give him what we now know as the human form. The form you are able to observe in your selves today existed at no earlier stage of evolution.

The conditions that were present on the Moon, Sun, and Saturn were preparatory stages; everything had first to undergo a certain development before man could rise to his present noble form. If asked why the Spirits of Form could not set to work on Saturn we must reply: because the germinal rudiments of the physical body were then too immature; a certain state of maturity had first to come about. This maturity was only reached at the time when our earth, together with the Sun, formed one planet of a very fine substance. The Spirits of Form were even then active, working slowly and gradually at the human body. We can indicate the period when this fashioning of man came to a certain conclusion, when the human form was, in a way, finished. This was not the case in the first part of the Atlantean epoch.

If you go back to a time long before the great catastrophe swept Atlantis away we find our ancestors in a condition very different from our own. It was only about the middle of the Atlantean epoch that man received a form essentially the same as he has today. Before then his material parts were softer. We find man consisting of a soft substance having no trace of his present hard bones, nothing even so solid as cartilage. He swam in the air, which was still permeated by dense fluid; he was a kind of water being, such as certain medusae are today that can hardly be distinguished from the surrounding water. At that time the forces of man's bone structure were organized, but the bones themselves had not hardened, and the connection between the higher and the lower principles of man was very different to what it is now.

We know when man is asleep today that his physical and etheric body lie on the bed, while his astral body and ego are outside. As the etheric body is nowadays approximately the same in size and form as the physical body man is also quickly free from it when he withdraws with his astral body from the physical body. This was not so in the first part of the Atlantean epoch; the etheric body then projected on all sides beyond the physical body, especially as regards the head. The consequence of this was that when the astral body withdrew it always remained connected with the etheric body. In the case of a man of the present day, the moment the astral body leaves the physical body it has also left the etheric body. The consequence of the earlier connection between the astral body and the etheric body, when the physical vehicle had been left behind, was that during the night man had not such darkness and lack of consciousness around and in him as there is today.

At that time when outside his physical body he could perceive psycho-spiritual beings with his dim clairvoyance. It is as if when your astral body withdrew on going to sleep, and your vision was turned away from the physical world, that in its place a world appeared peopled with psycho-spiritual beings.

The early Atlanteans had no use for a solid skeleton, and as the physical body was soft it was also pliable. This is something which clairvoyant consciousness can see as having actually existed, outrageous as it may seem to the present materialistic consciousness. During the Atlantean period man had great power over the shape of his body. If he wished that a member of his body, which later became a hand, should appear differently, that it should be lengthened, for example, elastically, he could do it; he had power not only to move his limbs, but to lengthen them; he could, as it were, inflate himself. This was actually possible at the time with which we are dealing; he could stretch out and lengthen his fingers. We find this more particularly the case when we go back to the Lemurian epoch. I will ask you now to note a connection between two things. When did man lose the power to lengthen and contract his limbs? At the time the Spirits of Form had completed the construction of his form. So long as man had not received the completed physical form, the form he was to retain, other Spirits could rule him, and he could change his shape. So that if we go back to the period beyond the Atlantean epoch we find that man had no definite form, but a continually changing one. We have to realize that there came a point of time when the Spirits of Form had finished all they had to do in order to make the human form similar to their own form, for it was their own shape they gave to man.

Let us now suppose that certain human beings had not been able to wait until the point of time referred to when the Spirits of Form had finished their work. Such beings would have hardened at some earlier stage of development, their form would, to a certain extent, have ossified, thus preserving some earlier form. It was, however, necessary that the being who was to become man should keep his shape supple until the right moment came for it to assume a solid form.

Let us briefly consider a period lying very far back, for here we are dealing with vast periods of time when man's external being was of such a nature that it had constant need of the forces that worked upon it to re-model and ennoble it. Suppose that through events which we will consider later certain human beings had partly freed themselves from the ever working Forces of Form, that they were no longer so entirely pervaded by these forces as they had been; such human beings would in this case have remained at some previous stage. This actually happened; the beings which freed themselves too early and did not allow the Spirits of Form to complete their work are indeed those that most closely resemble us—the apes. They could not wait; they did not remain long enough in the bosom of those Divine beings whom we call the Spirits of Form. What occurred in the case of the apes was continually happening with other creatures; again and again some beings remained behind and became hardened in form.

It was thus that the whole range of the present animal creation arose. But if you ask: Did human beings originate from such animal forms, the answer is No. Man remained above the surface of the earth in the purer elements, and only solidified when the time was ripe for him to do so. This point of time, when man descended to earth from spiritual heights, is beautifully portrayed in the Bible in the legend of Paradise. In spite of all investigations Paradise is not to be found upon earth, but above it. Man only descended from Paradise to earth after he had received his definite form.

Let us now see what ought to have happened in the middle of the Atlantean epoch when the Spirits of Form had finished the construction of the physical body. Man should have been able to look on his environment with his senses, which would then have been perfected; he should have lived for the first time with his external physical environment. Up to that time everything about him had indefinite outlines; only then could he enter into relationship with the external world in what we may call the normal way. Only then could he have learned to distinguish himself from other objects; for he only then had a physical body which could be considered a suitable vehicle for his ego. We have already said that certain beings had remained behind at every stage of evolution. Not all of them had reached the stage they might have reached; not even all the beings whom we have called the Spirits of Form, and it is these backward beings who enter most essentially into all considerations about the evolution of man on earth.

We have already explained that besides the exalted beings working from the sun and moon there are others at an intermediate stage between man and the high Sun and Moon-Spirits; these have their home on Mercury and Venus, the celestial bodies lying between the sun and earth. The Sun-Spirits had now attained normal development, and had exactly hit off the point of time at which they were able to work in the right way.

But there were other beings between the earth and the Sun-Spirits who did not find this point of time, and because they were outside the course of normal development they were active at other times.

Let us now consider what was the result of this. We will once more consider the course of human evolution. Let us keep before us the fact that man consists of physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego. We know that the task of the ego is to transform man's other principles; it must begin by gradually bringing the astral body under control; this means that man must learn to control his passions and impulses. A time had been appointed when the ego in the normal way should appear in man and proceed to work upon the astral body, when the astral body was to be gradually transformed and the Spirit-Self built up. The first possibility of this work of transformation was when the Spirits of Form became active in the Middle of the Atlantean epoch.

We must now try to understand the remarkable function carried out at that time by backward beings. They had not progressed far enough to assist man in the formation of the Spirit-Self, consequently they worked upon his astral body, which had not yet progressed far enough to receive the ego.

Thus, there was a time in the evolution of earthly humanity when the undeveloped astral body was exposed to the influence of these backward spiritual beings. You will understand this better if you remember that upon the Moon man had a physical, etheric, and astral body, and at that time the Spirits of Form worked normally upon his astral body, but these Beings who meanwhile had developed further now worked normally upon the ego; while the backward ones continued to work upon the astral body, as they had done during the Moon period. So that before man's ego was formed these backward but highly exalted beings worked upon his astral body. We call these beings after their leader—Luciferic beings. Two kinds of beings, therefore, worked upon man; the normally working Spirits of Form, of whom we have spoken, and these Luciferic beings who had not advanced sufficiently to be able to work upon the ego, and who already had been working on the astral body. These latter beings, therefore, retarded man's development if they had not worked upon him at the time he would in the middle of the Atlantean epoch have been sufficiently advanced for the Spirits of Form to work upon his ego.

We might now ask: Can that which the backward Spirits did to man—as compared with what the exalted normal Spirits did—be termed bad in the trivial sense? No, certainly not. If we consider the facts which clairvoyant vision is able to test we find that in reality they have accelerated human evolution. Man would have had to wait until the very last period of time for the development of certain capacities, whereas through the action of these beings he gained them earlier. Therefore, through the Luciferic beings man received certain mental qualities before the destined time, thus attaining a certain stage of mental development.

This was not wrong, but, wonderful as it may seem, something which even in a higher sense indicates an infinitely wise guidance in the progressive evolution of humanity. For, through man having attained at a lower stage certain capacities which otherwise were only destined for him in the middle of the Atlantean epoch, he came to them in an entirely different state of consciousness—one that was without self-consciousness. Man would have been tied to leading strings up to the middle of the Atlantean epoch if these backward beings had not intervened. How, then, must we regard their having remained behind? Looked at superficially, one might easily think of them as one thinks of backward students at college. These Spirits are not, however, backward on account of laziness, but the reason of their remaining behind was their willingness to sacrifice themselves. They sacrificed themselves so as to give to man the possibility of receiving the gifts of the Spirits of Form in a higher way—in a free way.

There was a long period in human evolution when through these Luciferic beings man received the first beginnings of speech and of thought, especially the memory of thought; when he received the rudimentary germ of Art and of Science; this he could not have attained previously, for he would then have acquired it merely as an instinctive activity. Through this something else came within his domain, something which, under the guidance of the Spirits of Form, would have passed him by; he was exposed to the possibility of straying from the right path—he was exposed to good and evil. Without the intervention of the Luciferic beings man would never have been exposed to this; but this also happened for the sake of freedom. Because the Luciferic beings accelerated a part of development they brought freedom to man in an earlier age. We all bear within us the seeds of the work of the Luciferic Spirits.

By the middle of the Atlantean epoch the Spirits of Form had perfected their development so far that they were capable of endowing man with what they themselves possessed. Man would have received the complete rudiments of his ego at this time if these Spirits alone had worked on him, but Luciferic beings had been active from an earlier period, and had accelerated evolution considerably; upwards on the one hand, and downwards on the other. Through this something else of great importance came about.

If evolution had proceeded without the Luciferic beings man would have attained a certain maturity by the middle of the Atlantean epoch, but without the possibility of freedom. Through no merit of his own man would have become mature enough to receive the gift of the Spirits of Form. Now that Luciferic beings had matured him earlier a certain deterioration approached him from another direction, and on this account neither the higher Sun Powers nor the forces of the Spirits of Form were able to work upon him at this period. Something of very great importance is here involved. If man had reached the middle of the Atlantean epoch merely by a higher spiritual instinct, without freedom, and, therefore, without any merit of his own, he would have been sufficiently mature for the descent to earth of that Principle which we call the Christ Principle; the Christ would have appeared then. Freedom had, however, been given to man, and he had thereby been pushed down below the stage of instinctive normal development. He had consequently now to mature by himself, so that he might later be able to receive the Christ Principle. We must clearly understand that the descent of Christ and his work was retarded by the intervention of the Luciferic beings, but through this intervention mankind was more mature when the Christ ultimately did descend.

From this we see that it was Luciferic beings who made man what he is today, and who prepared him for the great event of the descent of the Christ Principle. The Luciferic beings might have said If we leave man in such a condition that he only lives instinctively on into the Atlantean epoch he will receive the Christ Principle also instinctively. He will not be free, not mature in freedom. We will, therefore, sacrifice ourselves; we will develop in him certain capacities and qualities, thus delaying the moment when he can see the Christ.

Luciferic beings began their work as long before the middle of the Atlantean epoch as Christ appeared after it.

If we now ask, What was given to man by these Luciferic powers? What was he really able to receive in the middle of the Atlantean epoch? We must answer, “He received something which could come to him only from outside, something to which he could not yet attain through his own soul.” On this account everything which came to him from the Spirits of Form, who had worked on him previously, came in such a way that it did not flow from his own innermost being; he followed more an outer impulse; he obeyed laws.

Just as the animal has to follow instinctively the laws implanted in it, so Jehovah gave laws to man. He gave him the “law” which was then realized externally by Moses and the prophets. Meanwhile man matured, so that he could receive into himself the motives and impulses for his actions. Without participation on his part the Spirits of Form had regulated his life on earth.

Where, then, do the Spirits of Form work? They work principally where the blood speaks, in reproduction, and in all that is connected therewith.

In ancient times we find Gods and Folk spirits, or group spirits, work within the groups through the ordinances of the law. There we find that what is related by blood loves its own; it loves because love is implanted by the laws of nature; and the further back we go the more we find that all those related by blood consider themselves as belonging to one another. Everything loves that has had love implanted in it by the laws of nature, by the forces appertaining to the external form. Jehovah worked in the forces of blood relationship; hence the feeling of belonging one to another. Jehovah produced order and harmony through the relationship that is connected with the blood and those who opposed him were the Luciferic beings, who directed their strongest attacks against the principle of blood relationship. They always wished, up to the time of the coming of Christ, to centre man within his own personality; and tear him away from blood relationship. Then the Christ appears and centres man entirely within his own personality by giving him His inward power, thereby making wisdom and grace the most inward impulses of his being.

The Luciferic beings had prepared man for this through very long periods of time. Only at the time of Christ's coming was man ready for what these Luciferic beings desired. Those who uttered the words “Christus verus Luciferus,” Christ the true Lucifer, knew well what they were saying. This is an esoteric statement.

We have seen that two principles were in fact continually at work in those olden times we call pre-Christian; there was a binding principle which worked through blood relationship, and a sundering principle which sought to centre man in his own personality. We can see how the whole of humanity has been fashioned under the influence of these two principles.

Let us picture a certain stage of human evolution in the Atlantean epoch when man was approaching the time of his hardening, the time when the bone appeared. The spirits guiding man had now to take care that the bones should not harden too quickly. For a considerable length of time in Atlantean evolution the skeleton of man had to remain soft enough for it to be modified. Beings, however, as we know, remained behind at every stage, and certain groups of human beings remained behind at an early period through the bony system becoming hard too soon.

The principles worked in such a way that the principle of form prevailed, holding a group of human beings to the form they had then attained. What was the consequence? Forms may be hardened and held back, but evolution as a whole goes forward, so that forms which have thus been held back artificially arrive at a time later on to which they are no longer suited. A time came when there was less moisture in the air, when climatic conditions changed and were no longer adapted to those who had remained behind.

Groups of men in whom the bones had, as it were, become too strong, were now left behind as degenerate races. They could not adapt themselves to post-Atlantean conditions; the last remnant of these people are the American Indians; they had degenerated. There are other backward groups in whom not only the system of the bones, but also the system concerned with nutrition hardened too early, that system governed by the forces of the etheric body; while the bony system is governed by the forces of the physical body. The last remnant of those human groups in which the nutritive system hardened too soon now forms the Negroid races. Then there are those who degenerated at too early a stage through the nervous system becoming hardened and not remaining soft long enough for it to become available as an instrument of higher thought; of these the Malays are the last relic. Therefore, among them are tendencies towards certain passionate and sensuous instincts.

Lastly, we have those in whom at a certain stage the ego hardened within itself; it hardened in the blood which is the expression of the ego. We might say of these people that the ego had not progressed to Spirit-Self. Those who (to speak symbolically) are thus hardened as regards the blood have their last offshoots in the peoples of the Mongolian races. Those men who kept the above named principle supple, so that they did not remain fixed at any form, but were always able to develop further and overcome the enclosing of the ego, formed that human group that journeyed from the regions now covered by the Atlantic Ocean into those of Europe and Asia of today.

Connected with this we find the following remarkable fact: we find that several emigrations left the Atlantean continent; that they consisted of human beings who, having hardened in various ways, went in different directions; those in whom the bones had hardened journeyed westward, and their last descendants were found when America was discovered. Those whose nutritive system had hardened went principally to Africa; others (the Malays) went towards Asia. Then there are those who formed the ancestors of the Mongolian race. The last to migrate were those who dwelt in the neighbourhood of the Ireland of today; those who had kept themselves pliant the longest. These wandered from the West towards the East, and left behind them certain communities of people all over the Continent of Europe. The most advanced journeyed towards Asia, and there mixed in various ways with others who had come by different paths.

Let us now think of a period that lies not so very far behind us, an age when men possessed dim clairvoyance, and when initiates had still a very great influence; an age when there was a consciousness among men of the facts which have just been mentioned. How did this consciousness find expression?

The ancient Greeks found a people who had hardened earlier than themselves; south of them was a race which had originated through mixing with others; that had preserved the vision, the power to look backwards to a still earlier condition. When the Greek looked backwards over the course of his evolution he said to himself: I look towards Africa, and there I find in the Egyptian age advanced human beings who had been influenced by previous ages of civilization (the Babylonian-Chaldean); still earlier there was a people in this region among whom there had been a strong tendency towards hardening in regard to those qualities which reached down into the lower nature, into the principle that has to do with nutrition. Another state developed later when this people had come in contact with Asiatic emigrants. In addition to these were those who had kept themselves pliant the longest.

In the sculptured forms of his Gods the Greek idealized his knowledge regarding the evolution of man, which he saw to be the result of divinely working forces. He knew that at a very early stage certain human beings had hardened, and that others had preserved their softness and pliability. He then observed himself; he saw that in certain things he was indeed backward, but he belonged to those who had kept supple and plastic the longest. All this is wonderfully portrayed in Greek sculpture. If we examine it carefully we find three types of Gods:

  1. The Zeus type, to which belong the Gods grouped round Zeus.
  2. The Hermes or Mercury type. This was added later to the Zeus type, and was portrayed by the Greeks as an entirely distinct form. If you observe the type of hair in the case of Zeus and his kind, and, on the other hand the curly hair of Hermes, also the formation of the eyes and the position of the ears, you will see that the Greeks wished to express something different by this.
  3. The faun type. This type belongs to a still older humanity, and can be clearly distinguished from the Mercury type.

We here have something which the Greek wished to express in his own way. That which was south of him he expressed in the faun type. That which was in the east he associated with the Hermes type and that which might be called his own type, the race which founded the Aryan stock, he expressed in the sublime idealistic Zeus type.

Anyone who wishes can see in all these forms how beautifully the Greek accommodated that which is contained in the external form to the inward formative forces. I will point to one more detail which shows how refined the Greek artists were in their efforts to give expression, in forms of art, to the great conceptions of the world.

Observe for a moment the Asiatic type embodied in the form of Hermes. This type, because it had remained with the lower human forces, worked so that the forces which came into prominence and gave form to the face were those that ruled in the lower part of the human being. On the other hand, the forces belonging to the type of the Greek himself worked in the higher parts. This can be seen most characteristically in Zeus in the noble shape of the forehead.

The special consciousness of the Greek worked into the plastic forms of his art, and we can only understand what has been produced in the course of evolution when we follow these active forces and see how the artists formed such details as the eyes, for example. We see in this not only the minute observation of the Greek artists, but we see in the special form of that which he produced that he realized how the inner formative forces had moulded the external form. We recognize how racial peculiarities have been embodied in the figures of Greek Mythology, and we see how in the varied forms of Greek art are embodied in a unique manner those forces which work spiritually, even down to such details as the shape of an eye.