Egyptian Myths and Mysteries
The Genesis of the Trinity of Sun, Moon, and Earth. Osiris and Typhon.
7 September 1908, Leipzig
Up to this point in these lectures we have tried to construct a picture of the earth's evolution in connection with the evolution of man, because we had to demonstrate how the earth's past, how the facts of its evolution, were reflected in the knowledge displayed by the various cultural periods of the post-Atlantean time. The deepest experiences of the pupils of the Rishis were characterized, and it was shown how these inner experiences of the neophyte portrayed, in inward clairvoyantly-perceived pictures, the relationships and events that prevailed in the primeval earth, when sun and moon were still contained in it. We also saw what a high stage of initiation such a pupil had to reach in order to build for himself such a world-conception, which appears as a recapitulation of what occurred in the remotest past. We also saw what the Greeks thought when, in the campaigns of Alexander, they became acquainted with what was experienced by such an Indian neophyte, in whose soul arose the picture of the divine-spiritual creative force that began to express itself in the primeval mist when sun and moon were still united with the earth. This picture, the Brahman of the Indians, which was later called I-Brahma (Aham Brahma) and which appeared to the Greeks as Heracles — this picture, we sought to bring before our souls as an inner recapitulation of the facts that actually occurred in the past.
It was also emphasized that the succeeding evolutionary periods of the earth were reflected in the Persian and Egyptian cultures. What occurred in the second epoch, when the sun withdrew from the earth, appeared in pictures to the Persian initiates. All that happened as the moon gradually withdrew became the world-conception and the initiation-principle of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, Babylonians, Assyrians.
Now, in order to look quite clearly into the soul of the ancient Egyptian, which is the most important thing for us — and considering the Persian initiation only as a sort of preparation — we must examine a little more narrowly just what happened to our earth during the periods when the sun and moon were separating from it. We shall sketch how the earth itself gradually evolved during these times. We shall disregard the great cosmic events and direct our attention to what happened on the earth itself.
If again we look back on our earth in its primeval condition, when it was still united with sun and moon, we do not find our animals or plants, and especially not our minerals. At first the earth was composed only of man, only of the human germs. Of course it is true that the animal and plant germs were laid down on the old Sun and the old Moon, and that they were already contained in the earliest condition of the Earth, but in a certain way they were still slumbering, so that one could not perceive that they would really be able to bring forth anything. It was only when the sun began to withdraw that the germs that later became animals first became capable of germinating. Not until the sun had completely withdrawn from the earth, leaving earth and moon alone, did the same thing happen to the germs that later became plants. The mineral germs formed themselves gradually, only when the moon had begun to withdraw. We must keep this clearly in mind.
Now, for once, let us look at the earth itself. When it still had sun and moon within itself, the earth was only a sort of etheric mist of vast extent, within which the human germs were active, while the germs of the other beings — animals, plants, and minerals — slumbered. Since only human germs were present, there were no eyes to behold these events externally, hence the description given here is visible only for the clairvoyant vision in retrospect. It is given on the hypothesis that it is what one would have seen had one been able at that time to observe from a point in universal space.
On ancient Saturn, too, a physical eye would have seen nothing. In that primeval condition, the earth was merely a vaporous mist that could be felt physically only as warmth. Out of this mass, this primeval etheric mist, there gradually took shape a shining ball of vapor, which could have been seen had a physical eye been present. Could one have penetrated this with a feeling-sense, it would have appeared as a heated space, somewhat like the interior of an oven. But soon this mist became luminous, and this ball of vapor that thus took shape contained all the germs of which we have just spoken. We must be quite clear that this mist was nothing like a fog or cloud-formation of today; rather did it contain in solution all the substances which at present are solid or liquid. All metals, all minerals, everything, were then present in the mist in transparent and translucent form. There was a translucent vapor, permeated by warmth and light. Think yourself into this. What had grown out of the etheric mist was a translucent gas. This grew brighter and brighter, and through the condensation of the gases the light grew ever stronger, so that ultimately this vapor-mist appeared like a great sun that shone out into world-space.
This was the period when the earth still contained the sun, when the earth was still irradiated by light and rayed its light into world-space. But this light made it possible, not only that man should live with the earth in that primeval condition, but that in the fullness of the light there should also live all those other high beings who, although not assuming a physical body, were connected with the evolution of man: Angels, Archangels and Principalities. But not only were these present. In the fullness of the light lived still higher beings also: the Powers, or Exusiai, or Spirits of Form; the Virtues, or Dynameis, or Spirits of Motion; the Dominions, or Kyriotetes, or Spirits of Wisdom; those spirits who are called the Thrones, or Spirits of Will; finally, in looser connection with the fullness of the light, more and more detaching themselves therefrom, the Cherubim and Seraphim. The earth was a world inhabited by a whole hierarchy of lower and higher beings, all sublime. What radiated out into space as light, the light with which the earth-body was permeated, was not light only but also what was later the mission of the earth: It was the force of love. This contained the light as its most important component. We must imagine that not only light was rayed forth, not physical light alone, but that this light was ensouled, inspirited, by the force of love. This is difficult for the modern mind to grasp. There are people today who describe the sun as though it were a gaseous ball that simply radiates light. Such a purely material conception of the sun prevails exclusively today. The occultists are the only exception. One who reads a description of the sun today as it is represented in popular books, in the books that are the spiritual nourishment of countless people, does not learn to know the true being of the sun. What these books say about the sun is worth about as much as if one described a corpse as the true being of man. The corpse is no more man than what astrophysics says of the sun is really the sun.
Just as one who describes a corpse leaves out the most important thing about man, so the physicist who describes the sun today leaves out the most important thing. He does not reach its essence, although he may believe that with the help of spectroanalysis he has found its inner elements. What is described is only the outer body of the sun. 1This sentiment as to the sun is eloquently expressed in English by D. H. Lawrence in his Apocalypse (New York, Viking, 1932), pp. 41-46. In every sunbeam there streams down on all the inhabitants of the earth the force of those higher beings who live on the sun, and in the light of the sun there descends the force of love, which here on earth streams from man to man, from heart to heart. The sun can never send mere physical light to earth; the warmest, most ardent, feeling of love is invisibly present in the sunlight. With the sunlight there stream to earth the forces of the Thrones, the Cherubim, the Seraphim, and the whole hierarchy of higher beings who inhabit the sun and have no need of any body other than the light. But since all this that is present in the sun today was at that time still united with the earth, those higher beings themselves were also united with the earth. Even today they are connected with earth-evolution.
We must reflect that man, the lowest of the higher beings, was at that time already present in the germ as the new child of the earth, borne and nourished in the womb by these divine beings. The man who lived in the period of earth-evolution that we are now considering, had to have a much more refined body, since he was still in the womb of these beings. The clairvoyant consciousness perceives that the body of the man of that time consisted only of a fine mist-form or vapor-form; it was a body of air or gas, a gas-body rayed through and entirely permeated by light. If we imagine a cloud formed with some regularity, a chalice-like formation expanding in an upward direction, the chalice glowing with inner light, we have the men of that time who, for the first time in this earth-evolution, began to have a dim consciousness, such a consciousness as the plant-world has today. These men were not like plants in the modern sense. They were cloud-masses in chalice-like form, illuminated and warmed by the light, with no firm boundaries dividing them from the collective earth-mass.
This was once the form of man, a form that was a physical light-body, participating still in the forces of the light. Because of the refinement of this body there could descend into it not only an etheric and an astral body, not only the ego in its first beginnings, but also the higher spiritual beings who were connected with the earth. Man was, as it were, rooted above in the divine spiritual beings, and these permeated him. It is really not easy to portray the splendor of the earth at that time. We must picture it as a light-filled globe, shone round by light-bearing clouds and generating wonderful phenomena of light and color. Had one been able to feel this earth with his hands, he would have perceived warmth-phenomena. The luminous masses surged back and forth. Within them were all the human beings of today, woven through by all the spiritual beings, who rayed forth light in manifold grandeur and beauty. Outside was the earth-cosmos in its great variety; inside, with the light flowing about him, was man, in close connection with the divine-spiritual beings, raying streams of light into the outer light-sphere. As though by an umbilical cord that sprang from the divine, man hung upon this totality, on the light-womb, the world-womb of our earth. It was a collective world-womb in which the light-plant man lived at that time, feeling himself one with the light-mantle of the earth. In this refined vaporous plant-form, man hung as though on the umbilical cord of the earth-mother and he was cherished and nourished by the whole mother earth. As in a cruder sense the child of today is cherished and nourished in the maternal body, so the human germ was cherished and nourished at that time. Thus did man live in the primeval age of the earth.
Then the sun began to withdraw itself, taking the finest substances with it. There came a time when the high sun-beings forsook men, for all that today belongs to the sun forsook our earth and left the coarser substances behind. As a result of this departure of the sun, the mist cooled to water; and where there was formerly a mist-earth, now there was a water-sphere. In the middle were the primeval waters, but not surrounded by air; going outward, the waters changed into thick, heavy mist, which gradually became more refined. The earth of that time was a water-earth. It contained various materials in a soft state, which were enveloped by mists that became ever finer until, in the highest spheres, they became extremely rarefied. Thus did our earth once appear and thus was it altered. Men had to sink the formerly luminous gas-form into the turbid waters and incarnate there as shaped water-masses swimming in the water, as previously they had been air-forms floating in the air. Man became a water-form, but not entirely. Never did man descend entirely into the water.
This is an important moment. It has been described how the earth was a water-earth, but man was only partially a water-being. He protruded into the mist-sheath, so that he was half a water, half a vapor-being. Below, in the water, man could not be reached by the sun; the water-mass was so thick that the sunlight could not penetrate it. The light of the sun could penetrate into the vapor to some extent, so that man dwelt partly in the dark light-deprived water and partly in the light-permeated vapor. Of one thing, however, the water was not deprived, and this we must describe more minutely.
From the beginning, the earth was not only glowing and shining, but was also resounding, and the tone had remained in the earth, so that when the light departed the water became dark, but also became drenched with tone. It was the tone that gave form to the water, as one may learn from the well-known experiment in physics. We see that tone is something formative, a shaping force, since through tone the parts are arranged in order. Tone is a shaping power, and it was this that formed the body out of the water. That was the force of tone, which had remained in the earth. It was tone, it was the sound that rings through the earth, out of which the human form shaped itself. The light could reach only to the part of man that protruded out of the water. Below was a water-body; above was a vapor-body, which the external light touched, and which, in this light, was accessible to the beings who had gone out with the sun. Formerly, when the sun was still united with the earth, man felt himself to be in their womb. Now they shone down on him in the light and irradiated him with their power.
We must not forget, however, that in what remained behind after the separation of the sun other forces, the Moon-forces, were present. The earth had to separate these forces from itself.
Here we have a period during which only the sun was withdrawn, when the plant-man had to descend gradually into the water-earth. This stage, at which man had then arrived in his body, we see preserved today in a degenerated form in fishes. The fishes that we see in the water today are relics of those men, although naturally in a decadent form. We must think of a goldfish, for example, in a fantastic plant-form, agile, but with a feeling of sadness because the light had been withdrawn from the water. It was a very deep longing that arose. The light was no longer there, but the desire for the light called up this longing. There was a moment in the earth's evolution when the sun was not yet entirely outside the earth; there one can see that form still permeated with light — man with his upper part still at the sun-stage, while below he is already in the shape preserved in the fishes.
Through the fact that man lived in darkness with half his being, he had in his lower parts a baser nature, for in the submerged parts he had the Moon-forces. This part was not petrified like lava, as in the present moon, but these were dark forces. Only the worst parts of the astral could penetrate here. Above was a vapor-form, resembling the head parts, into which the light shone from outside and gave him form. So man consisted of a lower and an upper part. Swimming and floating, he moved about in the vaporous atmosphere. This thick atmosphere of the earth was not yet air; it was vapor, and the sun could not penetrate it. Warmth could penetrate, but not light. The sun-rays could not kiss the whole earth, but only its surface; the earth-ocean remained dark. In this ocean were the forces that later went out as the moon.
As the light-forces penetrated into the earth, so also did the gods penetrate. Thus we have, below, the godless, god-deserted mantle of waters, permeated only by the force of tone, and, all around this, the vapor, into which extended the forces of the sun. Therefore in this vapor-body, which rose above the surface of the water, man still participated in what streamed to him as light and love from the spiritual world. But why did the world of tone permeate the dark watery core? Because one of the high sun-spirits had remained behind, binding his existence to the earth. This is the same spirit whom we know as Yahweh or Jehovah. Yahweh alone remained with the earth, sacrificing himself. It was he whose inner being resounded through the water-earth as shaping tone.
But since the worst forces had remained as the ingredients of the water-earth, and since these forces were dreadful elements, man's vapor-portion was drawn ever further down, and out of the earlier plant-form a being gradually evolved that stood at the stage of the amphibian. In saga and myth this form, which stood far below later humanity, is described as the dragon, the human amphibian, the lindworm. Man's other part, which was a citizen of the realm of light, is presented as a being which cannot descend, which fights the lower nature; for example, as Michael, the dragon-slayer, or as Saint George combating the dragon. Even in the figure of Siegfried with the dragon, although transformed, we have pictures of man's rudiments in their primeval duality. Warmth penetrated into the upper part of the earth and into the upper part of physical man, and formed something like a fiery dragon. But above that rose the ether body, in which the sun's force was preserved. Thus we have a form that the Old Testament well describes as the tempting serpent, which is also an amphibian.
The time was now approaching during which the basest forces were hurled out. Mighty catastrophes shook the earth, and for the occultist the basalt formations appear as remnants of the cleansing forces that rocked the globe when the moon had to separate from the earth. This was also the time when the water-core of the earth condensed more and more, and the firm mineral kernel gradually evolved. On the one hand, the earth grew denser through the departure of the moon; on the other the upper parts gave off their heavier, coarser substances to the lower. Above, there arose something which, although still permeated by water, became more and more similar to our air. The earth gradually acquired a firm kernel in the middle, around which was the water everywhere. At first, the mist was still impenetrable for the sun's rays, but by relinquishing its substances the mist grew thinner and thinner. Later, much later, air developed out of this, and gradually the sun's rays, which earlier could not reach the earth itself, were able to penetrate it.
Now came a stage that we, must picture correctly. Earlier, man dived down into the water and extended up into the mist. Now, through the condensation of the earth, the water-man slowly acquired the possibility of solidifying his form and taking on a hard bony system. Man hardened himself within himself. Thereby he transformed his upper part in such a way that it became suited for something new. This new thing, which previously was impossible, was the breathing of air. Now we find the first beginning of the lungs. In the upper part there has previously been something that took up the light, but could do nothing more. Now man felt the light again in his dull consciousness. He could feel what streamed down in it as divine forces coming toward him. In this transitional stage man felt that what streamed down upon him was divided into two parts. The air penetrated into him as breath. Previously only the light had reached him, but now the air was inside him. Feeling this, man had to say to himself, “Formerly I felt that the force that is above me gave me what I now use for breathing. The light was my breath.”
What now streamed into him appeared to man as two brothers. Light and air were two brothers for him; they had become a duality for him. All earthly breath that streamed into man was at the same time an annunciation that he had to learn to feel something entirely new. As long as there was light alone, he did not know birth and death. The light-permeated cloud transformed itself perpetually, but man felt this only as the changing of a garment. He did not feel that he was born or that he died. He felt that he was eternal, and that birth and death were only episodes. With the first drawing of breath, the consciousness of birth and death entered into him. He felt that the air-breath, which had split off from its brother the light-ray, and which thereby had split off also the beings who earlier had flowed in with the light, had brought death to him.
Formerly, man had the consciousness, “I have a dark form, but I am connected with the eternal being.” Who was it that destroyed this consciousness? It was the air-breath that entered into man — Typhon. Typhon is the name of the air-breath. When the Egyptian soul experienced within itself how the formerly united stream divided itself into light and air, the cosmic event became a symbolic picture for this soul — the murder of Osiris by Typhon, or Set, the air-breath.
A mighty cosmic event is hidden in the Egyptian myth that allows Osiris to be killed by Typhon. 2Fairly complete versions of this myth may be found in Padraic Colum: Orpheus Myths of the World (New York, Macmillan, 1930) and in Lewis Spence: Mysteries of Egypt (London, Rider & Co., 1929). The Egyptian experienced the god who came from the sun and was still in harmony with his brother, as Osiris. Typhon was the air-breath that had brought mortality to man. Here we see one of the most pregnant examples of how the facts of cosmic evolution repeat themselves in man's inner knowledge.
In this way the trinity of sun, moon, and earth came into being. All of this was communicated to the Egyptian pupil in deep and consciously formed pictures.