The Gospel of St. John
V. Human Development During the Incarnations of our Earth
28 June 1909, Cassel
When man is considered in his present form, composed as he is of physical, etheric, astral bodies and Ego, clairvoyant consciousness observes the important fact that, as far as their upper part is concerned, man's physical and etheric bodies are approximately the same in size and form. The human head, especially, as it appears to physical sight, coincides almost exactly with the etheric head; the latter extends only slightly beyond the physical head on all sides. In the animal this is by no means the case. Even in the higher animals there is an enormous difference between the form and size of the etheric and physical parts of the head. If, for instance, you observe a horse with clairvoyant consciousness you will see that its etheric head stretches far beyond the physical head and differs considerably from the latter in form. If I were to sketch for you the formation above an elephant's trunk and head, you would be greatly surprised. What physical sight sees of the animal is merely the dense physical part in the middle. Let us now enquire into this fact.
Strictly speaking, the perfection of the human being on the physical plane is due to the fact that the etheric body so closely coincides with the physical body. This was not always the case. In the course of earth evolution there were periods in which the human etheric body by no means corresponded in its outline with the physical body, as at present. Indeed the progressive development of man consists in the fact that the etheric body, once ranging beyond the physical body, gradually crept into the latter, as it were, and came to coincide with it. Now it is essential to keep in mind that the interpenetration of the physical and etheric bodies necessarily took place at a definite point of time. To understand this, we must examine more in detail the course of evolution, which we contemplated in its general outline yesterday and the day before.
Let us again call to mind that, in the beginning of its development, our Earth was united with Sun and Moon. At that point man had arisen once more out of the earliest germ which comprised physical, etheric, and astral bodies; he appeared, so to speak, in his first earthly form — the only one possible to him while the Earth still contained both Sun and Moon. This period of Earth evolution, which man experienced in common with his planet, is usually called in the literature of spiritual science, the ‘Polarian’ period. It would lead too far to explain today why this period is called ‘Polarian’; meanwhile let us simply accept the term. Then comes the time when the Sun is preparing to quit the Earth; when the beings who cannot abide the grosser substance of the Earth separate from the latter with the finer substances of the Sun. ‘Hyperborean’ is the name we give to this age. Then comes the time in which the Earth is still united with the Moon and becomes increasingly desolate. We saw yesterday how the human souls abandoned the Earth, upon which only stunted human forms remained. In the literature of spiritual science this is called the ‘Lemurian’ age. The separation of the Moon from the Earth took place in this period and there ensued a revival of all the kingdoms which had their foundation upon the earth. The mineral kingdom needed but little reviving; the vegetable kingdom somewhat more; the animal kingdom still more; while the human race needed the highest and most powerful forces for the furtherance of its development. This revival began simultaneously with the exit of the Moon. We find then, as we said yesterday, only a small number of human beings, and these consisted of the three principles they had acquired in the evolution of Saturn, Sun, and Moon. To these the first beginning of the Ego was added on earth. But at the time of the Moon's exit from the Earth, man did not yet exist in the fleshly substance which he assumed later. He was clothed in the finest substance of that age. In the Lemurian age our present minerals were largely still in a fluid state, being dissolved in other substances which, as fluids, exist separately today, for instance, water. The atmosphere was still permeated with dense vapours of the most various substances. Pure air, pure water in our sense of the word, did not exist at that time, or at any rate only to a very slight extent. The human being of those times cast his tenuous delicate body in the purest substances available. Had he used coarser substances, his body would have assumed a definite outline, and its form a sharply defined contour; the latter would have been bequeathed to his descendants and the human race would have remained stationary. Thus the coarse substances were inadmissible; indeed, man had to provide that the matter assumed by his body should freely move in accordance with the impulses of his soul. The matter in which man's body was cast at that time was so soft that it followed the impulse of his will in all directions. You can stretch out your hand today, but you cannot prolong it three yards by an act of will. You cannot subject matter to your will, because its present form is inherited. This was not the case at that time. Man could assume any form at will; he could cast the form as his soul willed. It was conditional to his further development that, after the Moon's exit, he should incarnate in the softest substances, so that his body remained plastic and flexible, and followed the soul in every respect. Then came the time in which certain parts of matter which are so necessary for our present existence — water and air — were gradually purged of the denser matter they contained, so that the substances which were initially dissolved in the water, now separated from it. As substances in solution fall when the water cools, the dissolved substances fell, as it were, to the Earth's crust. The water became clear and the air was freed from matter; air and water came into existence. Man was able to use this refined matter for the formation of his body. This third (Lemurian) period gradually led to an epoch which we call ‘Atlantean’ because the chief part of the human race then lived on a now submerged continent which extended between America and Europe and Africa — the area now covered by the Atlantic Ocean. When the Lemurian period had lasted a while, humanity pursued its development on the Atlantean continent. Here everything took place which I am about to describe, as well as much that was mentioned yesterday.
Only very few of the human souls who incarnated later, were present at the time of the Moon's exit, for these souls were then distributed over the various planets. They descended again during the late Lemurian and early Atlantean times. Few human beings, as I said, had lived through the crisis of the Lemurian epoch, for only the strongest souls could reside in the hardened substance, and survive the Moon crisis. But when the substance began to soften, after the Moon's exit, and when descendants were produced who were not confined within a hard and fast, inherited form, but were flexible, the souls gradually descended from the various planets and took possession of the bodies. The forms, however, which became physical soon after the Moon's exit, retained their fixed form through inheritance, and were therefore unable to receive into themselves human souls, even after the Moon's exit.
We can readily imagine what took place when these souls experienced the desire to descend to the Earth. Down below forms of every description (the offspring of the forms which had survived the Moon crisis) were to be seen, and among these all stages of densification were to be found. The human souls, indeed all soul-beings, who felt least impelled to unite themselves entirely with matter, chose the most plastic of the forms and abandoned them soon after. On the other hand, the other soul-beings who united themselves thus early with the hardened forms, were imprisoned in them, and consequently remained behind in their development. The animals nearest to man came into existence in consequence of the descent from space of souls who were unwilling to wait; they sought the bodies on Earth too early and turned them into hard and fast forms before they were fully penetrated by the etheric body. The human form, however, remained plastic until it could perfectly adapt itself to the etheric body. It was in this way that the coincidence of the physical and etheric bodies, of which I have spoken, came about; it was accomplished roughly in the last third of the Atlantean period. Prior to this, the human soul, having descended, retained the body in a fluid state and took care that the etheric body did not mingle completely with any part of the physical body. The interpenetration of the physical and etheric bodies took place at quite a definite point of time. Not until the Atlantean period did the human physical body begin to assume a definite form and to harden. Now had nothing else happened during Atlantean evolution, had no new factor intervened, human development would have taken another course. Man would have passed somewhat rapidly from an earlier to a later state of consciousness. Before the complete union of his soul with his physical body, man was a clairvoyant being, but his clairvoyance was dull and shadowy. He could behold the spiritual world but he could not say ‘I’ to himself; he could not distinguish himself from his environment. He was without consciousness of himself. The latter first appeared when the physical and etheric bodies became united. And had nothing else happened, the result would have been as follows.
Before this point of time, man was conscious of the spiritual world. Though his vision of plants, animals, and so on, was not clear, the spiritual element surrounding them was distinctly visible to him. He could not have distinguished clearly the form of an elephant, but the etheric body extending beyond the animal's physical body would have been plainly visible to him. This form of consciousness would have gradually disappeared; the Ego would have developed, when the physical and etheric bodies had coincided, and man would have seen the world confronting him from another side. Whereas he had formerly beheld clairvoyant pictures, he would have henceforth perceived an external world and, together with it, the spiritual beings and spiritual forces upon which this world is founded. He would not have seen the physical picture of the plant as we now see it; together with the physical picture, he would have seen the spiritual being of the plant. Now why was the former dim clairvoyant consciousness not simply replaced, in the course of evolution, by a consciousness of objects which included a simultaneous perception and knowledge of the spiritual world?
The reason why this did not happen is because, during the revival of the human beings in the period of the Moon crisis, certain beings gained an ascendancy over man — beings who, though higher than man, must nevertheless be described as backward in their evolution. We have acquainted ourselves with several of these higher beings; we know that some ascended to the Sun and others to other planets. But there were also spiritual beings who had failed to perform the task allotted to them on the Moon. These beings, inferior to the gods, higher than man, are named Luciferic beings, after their leader, the highest and most powerful among them.
At the time of the Moon crisis man was so far developed that he possessed physical, etheric, astral bodies and Ego. The latter he owed to the Spirits of Form, as he owed his astral body to the Spirits of Motion, his etheric body to the Spirits of Wisdom, and his physical body to the influence of the Spirits of Will or Thrones. Thanks to the Spirits of Form (Exusiai or Powers in the language of Christian esotericism), the addition of the embryonic Ego to the three other principles was rendered possible. Now if evolution had pursued a normal course, and had all the beings around man fulfilled their appointed tasks, certain beings would have worked upon his physical body, others upon his etheric body, others again upon his astral body, and yet others upon his Ego; all in due order, we may say, every hierarchy working upon the principle to which it belonged. But now these laggard beings were there — the Luciferic beings. Had their further activity been of the right kind, they would have been called to work upon the Ego; but they had only learnt (on the Moon) to work upon the astral body, and this led to results of great consequence. Had these Luciferic beings not been there, man would have received into himself his Ego in its embryonic state, and evolved until the last third of the Atlantean period in such a way as to exchange his dim clairvoyant consciousness for a consciousness of external objects. As it was, however, the influence of the Luciferic beings penetrated, like forceful rays, into his astral body. Wherein did their influence consist?
The astral body is the bearer of impulses, desires, passions, instincts, and so on. Man would have become quite different as regards the structure of his astral body had the Luciferic beings not made themselves felt. He would have developed none but impulses fitted to lead him in safety and guide him forward. The higher Spirits would have led him to behold the world as a world of objects, behind which the spiritual being would have been visible. But freedom, enthusiasm, the feeling of self-dependence, and passion for the higher world would have been lacking in him. Man would have lost his old clairvoyant consciousness; having become a part of the deity, he would have beheld the glory of the world, and this vision would have produced its reflection in his intellect with great perfection. But in his perfection man would have been nothing but a great mirror of the universe. Now, however, before this happened, the Luciferic beings poured into his astral body passions, impulses, and desires, which mingled with whatever man had received into himself in the course of his evolution. Thus he could not only behold the stars, but also become aglow for them; he could kindle within himself enthusiasm and passion; he could not only follow the deified impulses of the astral body, but also develop his own impulses in personal freedom. All this had been poured into his astral body by the Luciferic beings. At the same time, however, they had conferred upon him something else: the possibility of evil, and the ability to sin. He would never have acquired the latter had he been led, step by step, by the sublimer gods. The Luciferic beings made man free and implanted in him enthusiasm, but at the same time, they conferred upon him the possibility of lower desires. Under normal circumstances, man would have associated normal feelings with every single object; but now the things of sense could please him more than was right, and he could devote his whole interest to them. As a result, he was overtaken by a hardening of his form, earlier than would otherwise have been the case. Strictly speaking, man should have descended from an airy to a dense form in the last third of the Atlantean period; but as it was, he descended earlier and became prematurely a being of dense form. This is described in the Bible as the Fall of Man. But apart from this we find, in the times we have been considering, high spiritual beings at work upon the Ego, which they have bestowed upon man. In proportion as the human beings descend and unite with the human bodies, these beings direct the flow of forces which bring man forward on his path in the Cosmos; they hold their hands protectingly over humanity. On the other hand, the other beings who had not risen sufficiently to work upon the Ego, now work upon the astral body and kindle in man certain definite instincts.
The physical life of man at this period presents the picture of these two antagonistic powers; the divine spiritual powers at work upon the Ego and the Luciferic beings. If we observe the spiritual side of this process, we may say that during the time of desolation on Earth, the human souls ascended to the various planets belonging to our solar system, and returned to Earth in proportion as they found bodies in the line of physical heredity. If you bear in mind that the Earth was most thinly populated at the time of the Moon-cleavage, you will readily understand that the branches of the human race issued from a small number of ancestors. The population grew by degrees inasmuch as souls descended in increasing numbers to take possession of the bodies which appeared on the Earth. For a long time there were none but descendants of the few human beings who lived at the time of the Moon-cleavage. They were worked upon by the Sun-forces themselves, for they had retained sufficient power of resistance to offer a point of approach to the Sun-forces, even during the time of the lunar crisis. These human beings and their descendants felt themselves to be ‘Sun-men’. Let us clearly realize this. For the sake of simplicity picture to yourselves that there was only one human pair during the lunar crisis (I will not decide whether this was really the case). This pair had descendants, who again had other descendants, forming the branches of the human race. Now as long as the population was strictly confined to the descendants of the old ‘Sun-men’, there prevailed among men a definite state of consciousness, due to their old clairvoyant faculty. Human memory covered more than the experiences since birth, or as at present, from a point subsequent to birth; a man remembered everything that his father, grandfather, and so on had experienced. His memory extended back to his ancestors, indeed to all with whom he was connected by blood. This was because the Sun-forces overshadowed all those who were related by ties of blood and could trace their descent to the survivors of the Moon-cleavage. The Sun-forces, having awakened Ego-consciousness, kept it alive through the line of descent. Now the human race increased, as the souls who had ascended into cosmic space returned to Earth. Those, however, in whom the Sun-forces were strong enough, still felt these forces, although they had descended to Earth and were related to spheres very different from the Sun. In later times, these souls, living as later descendants, lost their connection with the Sun-forces and, with it, the common memory with their ancestors. In proportion as the human race multiplied, this living consciousness inherent in blood-heredity was lost. It was lost because the Powers who guided man onward in his evolution and implanted the Ego in him were confronted by the Luciferic powers who worked upon the astral body. These powers worked against everything that cemented man to man. Their desire was to confer freedom and independence upon man. After the separation of the Moon the consciousness of the oldest human beings was such that the word ‘I’ referred to the experiences of their forefathers as well as to their own. They felt the Sun-being working in the blood common to them all. When this feeling had died out, those who had come from Mars, for instance, felt the bond uniting them with the guardian Spirit of Mars, and their descendants, being recruited precisely from Mars-souls, felt the protecting influence of the Mars-Spirit. The attacks of the Luciferic spirits were directed against this group-consciousness bound up with blood relationship; the further we advance in time, the more does that consciousness disappear and the more does the individual feel his independence, being impelled to cultivate his individual Ego as against the common or group-Ego. Two worlds are thus at work in the human being: that of the Luciferic beings, and that of the divine spiritual beings. The latter lead men to one another, by the ties of blood; the Luciferic beings seek to separate men and divide one from the other. These two forces operated throughout the Atlantean period and we find them still at work when the Atlantean continent was overwhelmed by great upheavals, and Europe, Asia, and Africa — and America on the other side — assumed their present form. They are still at work in the fifth period of the Earth and into our own epoch.
We have thus described five evolutionary periods of the Earth: the Polar, in which the Earth was still united with the Sun; the Hyperborean, in which the Moon was still united with the Earth; the Lemurian, the Atlantean, and finally, the post-Atlantean, our own time. We saw how the Luciferic spirits intervened and worked in opposition to the divine spiritual powers who drew men together. Indeed we must say that human evolution would have taken quite a different course had the Luciferic powers not intervened. The old clairvoyant consciousness would have been replaced by an object-consciousness, such, however, as would have also been alive to the spirit. As it was, the Luciferic spirits led man earlier to a hardened body; man beheld the physical world earlier than would otherwise have been possible for him. As a result he entered upon the third and last phase of the Atlantean period in a totally different condition than would have been the case had the divine spiritual powers held undisputed sway. Instead of a world aglow with the spirit of higher beings, he now saw only a physical world. The divine world had withdrawn from him. The Luciferic beings had interfered with his astral body. Man having now united himself with the sensible world, other beings — the Ahrimanic spirits of Zarathustra (also called Mephistophelian) now interfered with his external perception and with the relation of his Ego to the outer world. Man's physical, etheric, and astral bodies are not so constituted as they would have been had the higher Gods alone worked upon them. The beings known as Luciferic gained admittance into man's astral body and caused his premature fall from Paradise. The consequence of this Luciferic influence was the perversion of man's perception of the outer world by the Ahrimanic or Mephistophelian (Satanic) spirits. The latter now showed the outer world merely in its physical form, and not as it truly is. Hence the Hebrew name for these spirits who deluded man with a vain show: ‘Mephiz-Topel’; ‘Mephiz’ the vitiator and ‘Topel’ the liar. That is the derivation of the name Mephistopheles. He is the same spirit as Ahriman. Now what was the effect of Ahriman's influence as distinguished from Lucifer's?
Lucifer caused the undue deterioration of the forces of the astral body, and the premature densification of man's physical substance. To be sure, man attained thereby the freedom which would otherwise have been denied him. The Mephistophelian spirits cast a veil over the spiritual foundation of the world and mocked man with a world that is an illusion. Mephistopheles infused into man the belief that the world is merely a material existence, and that there is nothing spiritual in and behind all matter. The scene which Goethe depicts so wonderfully in his Faust is continually being enacted in humanity as a whole. We see Faust, on the one hand, seeking the way to the spiritual world; on the other hand, Mephistopheles who describes the spiritual world as ‘nothing’, because it is in his interest to represent the world of sense as everything. Faust retorts in words which every spiritual investigator would have used in a similar case: ‘In thy Nothing I hope to find my All!’
Only when we are aware that in every particle of matter there is spirit, and that the idea of matter is a lie; only when we recognize in Mephistopheles the spirit who vitiates thought in the world, then only can we conceive the outer world in its true form. Now what was necessary for humanity, to help it onward and prevent it being overwhelmed by the fate prepared for it by Lucifer and Ahriman?
Even in Atlantean times efforts had to be made to mitigate the influence of the Luciferic beings. There were men, even in early Atlantean times, who worked upon themselves to the effect of preventing the Luciferic influence in their astral body from becoming unduly great. They avoided everything that came from Lucifer, and sought out in their own soul the passions, instincts, and desires proceeding from him. What resulted from the uprooting of the Luciferic attributes? It enabled these men to behold in its true form, what men would have beheld, had they not been subjected to the influence of the Luciferic and later of the Ahrimanic spirits. Certain individuals in Atlantean times sought, by purity of life and careful self-knowledge, to cast out of themselves the Luciferic influence. By their mode of life it was possible for them, in those times, while remnants of the old clairvoyance still existed, to see into a spiritual world, and to behold a higher world than other men, in whom the Luciferic beings had caused physical matter to harden. Such exceptional individuals, whose strength of character and thorough self-knowledge had enabled them to extirpate the Luciferic influence, became the leaders of the Atlantean epoch; we may call them the Atlantean initiates. Now what had Lucifer actually brought about?
Lucifer had directed his attacks principally against all that united human beings, against the love inherent in the ties of blood. Now those individuals, by combating Lucifer's influence, acquired the power of beholding spiritually the true facts. They could affirm that man's progress is by no means furthered by separation or isolation, but by everything tending to unite. These individuals therefore sought to re-establish the conditions which prevailed before Lucifer's power had imperiled the higher spiritual world. Their effort was to extirpate the personal element: ‘Destroy that which gives you a personal Ego, and look back to those ancient times in which the ties of blood spoke so eloquently that the descendant felt his Ego reaching back to his earliest ancestor — when the first forefather, long dead, was worshipped.’ The leaders of the Atlantean age sought to lead men back to the times of primeval human communities. Throughout that evolutionary period such leaders appeared again and again and admonished the people, saying, ‘Strive to resist the influences which would thrust you into the personal Ego; strive to know what bound men together in olden times; then shall ye find the way to the divine spirit!’
This attitude of soul had been preserved in its purest form by the people whom we know as the old Hebrews. Try to understand aright the exhortations of those who were the leaders of that old Hebrew people. They said to the people: ‘You have reached a stage in which every man lays stress upon his personal Ego, and seeks his being in himself alone. But you further the progress of humanity if you deaden the personal Ego and spare no effort to become conscious that you are all united and descended from a common father, Abraham; that you are all members of a great organism extending to Abraham. When you are told: “I and father Abraham are one” and you accept these words, leaving aside everything personal, then you have the right consciousness, which will lead you to the Divine; for the way to God is through the first forefather.’ The Hebrew people preserved longest the fundamental principle expressed in the leadership of those who combated the Luciferic influence. But mankind had been entrusted with the mission to cultivate and develop the Ego, not to destroy it. The old initiates had nothing to bring forward against the personal Ego except that the way to the Gods of old led through the ancestors of the race.
When the great impulse, the Christ Impulse, came upon the Earth, as described yesterday, there resounded for the first time, clear and distinct, a new speech. This could be heard precisely within the Hebrew nation, because the latter had most recently preserved what we may call an echo of the teachings of the old Atlantean initiates.
Christ transformed the speech of the old initiates and said: ‘It is possible for man to cultivate his own personality; it is possible that he should not obey the physical bonds of blood relationship alone; but that he should look into his Ego, there to seek and find the Divine!’ In that impulse which we have called the Christ Impulse, lies the power which enables us, if we have united ourselves therewith, to establish a spiritual bond of brotherhood from man to man, in spite of the individuality of the Ego. Thus the power of Christ was different from that which prevailed in the community into which He was led. Here it said: ‘I and Father Abraham are one! This I must know if I would find my way back to God.’ But Christ said: ‘There is another Father through whom the Ego shall find the way to the Divine; for the Ego or “I am” and the Divine are One! There is an eternal being which thou canst find if thou remainest within thyself.’ Hence Christ spoke of the power which He sought to bestow upon mankind, in the words of St. John, saying: ‘Before Abraham was, was the I AM.’ I AM was none other than the name Christ applied to Himself. And if a consciousness of these things is kindled in man, so that he says: ‘There lives something within me which existed long before Abraham; I need not go back to Abraham; I find in myself the divine Father-Spirit,’ then he can transform into good all that Lucifer brought for the development of the Ego, but which led to the obstruction of humanity.
Let us suppose that only the higher, divine spiritual beings had been at work, the beings who had restricted love to the ties of blood and only demanded of man: ‘Thou must ascend through the whole line of ancestry if thou wouldst find the way to the Gods!’ In this case men would have been herded together in one community, and they would never have acquired a full consciousness of their freedom and independence. The Luciferic spirits inoculated the human astral body with these qualities before the appearance of Christ. They separated human beings from one another and taught them to stand on their own feet. But Christ turned to good the evil which necessarily must have resulted had the Luciferic influence been carried to its extreme. In this case humanity would have fallen a prey to lovelessness. Lucifer brought freedom and independence; but Christ turned that freedom into love. And by the union with Christ men are led to spiritual love.
Viewed from this standpoint a new light falls upon the deed of the Luciferic spirits. Dare we still characterize as negligence and indolence the circumstance that they remained ‘in arrears’ with their evolution? No; they remained behind in order that they might fulfil a definite mission in the evolution of the Earth: to prevent men being forged together into a mere mass through natural (blood) ties alone, and to prepare the way for Christ. It is as though they had said, in the Moon period: ‘We will renounce the fruits of our lunar evolution, that we may serve on Earth in the work of progress!’ This is one of the examples which show how an apparent evil, a seeming error, can nevertheless be turned into good in the whole chain of events encompassing the world. In order that Christ might intervene at the right moment in the evolution of the Earth, it was necessary that certain lunar spirits should sacrifice their lunar mission and prepare for Him. From this we see that Lucifer's failure on the Moon may with equal justice be regarded as a sacrifice.
In this way we draw ever nearer to a truth which should be inscribed in the human soul as a lofty maxim of morality: When thou seest evil in the world, say not: ‘Here is evil and therefore imperfection!’ Enquire rather: How can I rise to the knowledge that this evil can be transformed into good, on a higher sphere, through the wisdom which is in the Cosmos? How can I reach the point at which I can say: ‘If thou seest imperfection here, it is because thou art not yet able to see the perfection, even in this imperfection!’ When the human being sees an evil, he must look into his own soul and ask himself: ‘How comes it that here, where I am faced with evil, I am not yet able to recognize the good in it?’