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The Mission of the Individual Folk Souls
GA 121

4. The Evolution of Races and Civilization

10 June 1910, Oslo

If we wish to understand the relationship of the races of mankind to one another and the origins of the individual folk communities, we must realize that man as we know him today is a highly complex being and that his present form and inner being could only have arisen through the cooperation of countless numbers of cosmic Beings. From the study of the ‘Akashic Record’ and other observations on the evolution of man we know that in prehistoric times our Earth, before reaching its present condition, had to pass through three conditions, in the course of which the three so-called members or vehicles of man, the physical body, the etheric body and the astral body were prefigured, gradually realized and developed until they reached their present state. It is only during his present Earth incarnation that man has been able to develop a fourth member, an ego. These four members testify to the activity of the spiritual Beings during the three or four incarnations of our Earth—Old Saturn, Old Sun, Old Moon and the Earth period itself up to the present moment. If you will call to mind all the Beings who worked together during those incarnations, the Spirits of Will or Thrones, the Spirits of Wisdom, of Movement, of Form, of Personality, the Archangels down to the Angels—and above the Thrones, the Cherubim and Seraphim—it is clear that man's present organization could only have been created through a complex interplay of spiritual forces. We have seen that not only was the cooperation of many Beings and nature-forces in the Cosmos a necessity, but that for the creation of man it was also necessary that at certain epochs, certain Beings should renounce the normal course of their evolution and remain behind in order to be able to participate in the organization of man in a way that would have been impossible in the normal course of their evolution.

And so when we seek to understand man as he is today, we find a richly varied and much patterned fabric. Only when we examine this fabric closely and watch the activity of the several Beings do we begin to understand how man first came into existence through the cooperation of these Beings. The chief Being who is of importance for contemporary man is the one who has gradually made ego-consciousness possible. The opportunity to develop ego-consciousness was first provided by the Spirits of Form, the Beings whom we call Powers or Exusiai. If we follow the activity of these Beings alone and ask ourselves how man would fare if the normal Spirits alone were predominantly active in him, we shall find that they are the donors of the ego-organization. And this implies that their chief interest is to further man's ego-development, which can only be realized in the man of today at a certain age.

If you recall the teachings of Spiritual Science on the subject of the education of the child you will know that in the first seven-year period of life, between birth and the change of teeth, man develops principally the physical body. The Spirits of Form have no particular interest in the development of the physical body since this is really a recapitulation of what man underwent on Old Saturn (which has often been repeated) and which from the last physical birth up to the age of seven has for the time being been recapitulated in a particular way for the last time. The second seven-years period of life from the ages of seven to fourteen, the age of puberty) is also a period which holds little interest for the Spirits of Form since it is a recapitulation of what man underwent on Old Sun. In reality the Spirits of Form only wished to embark on their chief activity, the bestowal of an ego, during man's life on Earth. The third seven-year period covers the years between fifteen and twenty-one. During this period man recapitulates the development of the astral body that normally belongs to the Old Moon epoch. And again the normal Spirits of Form show no interest. The three life-periods, then, that precede the actual birth of the ego at the age of twenty approximately, have no immediate appeal. The Spirits of Form only intervene on their own initiative at the age of twenty approximately. On reflection, therefore, you will not be surprised to learn that the Spirits of Form intended, in fact, that man should incarnate only at the normal developmental stage of twenty or thereabouts.

In the eyes of these Spirits of Form all that has been developed in man hitherto is, in reality, a kind of embryonic state, a sort of germinal condition. And if I may speak somewhat figuratively I might say that the Spirits of Form who have developed normally would far prefer it if things proceeded with almost clock-work regularity, if hitherto no-one encroached upon their province. If these Spirits of Form had free rein until man's twentieth year, then in the first seven years of his life man would have the consciousness pertaining to the physical body, namely, the very dim consciousness of the mineral kingdom. In the second seven years, between the ages of seven and fourteen, he would have a sleep-consciousness. From the fourteenth to the twentieth year he would be very active inwardly, but would live in a kind of dreamlike consciousness of the Old Moon evolution. Not until the age of twenty-one approximately would he awaken to ego-consciousness. If he followed the normal course of development therefore he would only awaken to ego-consciousness at that age and perceive the external world in the form that is familiar to us today.

If we only take into account the activity of the Spirits of Form it is clear that man attains his present-day consciousness much too early. Now in modern man this consciousness, as you know, awakens to some extent soon after birth. He would not develop a clear and distinct perception of the external world if other Spirits, in reality Spirits of Movement, had not remained behind and renounced the development of certain capacities which they could otherwise have acquired up to the time of the Earth-evolution, so that they could intervene in man's development in a particular way during this present Earth-evolution. Because their evolution followed a different path they are in a position to bestow upon man prematurely that which he ought to acquire only in his twentieth year approximately. These are spiritual Beings who renounced the possibility of continuing their evolution normally up to the stage of their Earth-evolution Beings who might have been Spirits of Movement during the Earth-evolution, but who remained at the stage of the Spirits of Form and are now active in the Earth-evolution as Spirits of Form. Thus they are able, during the Earth-evolution, to bestow upon man, who is by no means mature enough to receive it and has much to redeem from an earlier epoch, the ego-consciousness that would normally be his only around the age of twenty. Hence the abnormal Spirits of Form endow man with capacities which otherwise he would have received about his twentieth year only.

The consequences are highly significant. Let us assume for a moment that evolution had followed its normal course. If these abnormal Spirits had not intervened, man would have incarnated on the physical plane in the condition which is natural to him at the age of twenty approximately and would have to go through a totally different embryonic development. Indeed through these abnormal Spirits of Form, man's development from birth to the age of twenty, that is, for about the first third of his life, is subject to the forces of the external world. The first third of our Earth-life therefore is not controlled by spiritual Beings who determine Earth conditions, but by other abnormal spiritual Beings. And because these abnormal Beings participate in evolution, we do not possess therefore the form that we should have if we had incarnated in the condition natural to us at the age of twenty. To compensate for this man must spend the first third of his life (up to the age of twenty) under the powerful influence of these abnormal Beings. In the course of his whole development man is subject to the influence of these abnormal Beings. And the penalty he has to pay for this is that after the middle third of life which is under the influence of normal Spirits of Form only, a progressive decline sets in and the etheric and astral organizations begin to disintegrate. Life therefore is divided into three periods or thirds—an ascending third, a middle third and a descending third. It is only in the middle third that man is a fully integrated person in his Earth-life. In the last third of his life man has to give back what he received during the first, the ascending third; he must repay the debt in kind.

If man had been wholly subject to the influence of the normal Spirits of Form all that he experiences today up to the twentieth year would take on a different complexion, a totally different form. The situation would have been totally different, so that everything associated with the development of man during the first of his three life-periods is fundamentally an anticipation of much that belongs to the later epochs. In consequence, up to the second life-period man has become a more material being than he would otherwise have been. He would have experienced up to this time purely spiritual conditions and would have incarnated on Earth only at that period of his development which he undergoes in his twentieth or twenty-first year when he would find himself Earth-bound. We learn from Spiritual Science that if his development had proceeded in this way man would have incarnated only in the condition which he now attains in his twentieth or twenty-first year. He would not have been able to go through the preceding conditions on Earth; he would have been obliged to go through them in the spiritual spheres surrounding the Earth.

The whole course of human development through childhood and adolescence should now be clear to you. If the line BC represents life on Earth between twenty and forty, it would have been the intention of the Spirits of Form that man should incarnate only at B (the age of twenty to twenty-one). Having come down to Earth at this age he would have left it again after his fortieth year (at C) and have spent the last third of his life in a spiritualized state. Through the abnormal Beings man was forced to descend upon the Earth at A and begin his life cycle. That is the secret of our existence. Thus it is only in the middle third of life that we are wholly under the influence of these Beings who actually control us; the periods of our maturity and decline are subject to entirely different Beings who in one way or another have renounced their normal development.

If man had lived through the first and last thirds of his life in the spiritual sphere surrounding the Earth and had incarnated only during the second third, thereby becoming a totally different being, he would not have become Earth-bound to the extent that he is today. If man's development had followed this course, then all those incarnating on Earth would be alike in (physical) form and inner being, they would be standardized. Only a single, uniform humanity would exist. That which determines the racial types with their specific characteristics is unrelated to the middle third of life. Through the circumstances of the earlier years, through the influences of the first third of life, we, with all our forces, are more Earth-bound than the normal Spirits of Form had intended. In consequence man has become more dependent upon the Earth than he would otherwise have been; he has become dependent on the locality where he lives. Because of his premature incarnation—in opposition to the intentions of the Spirits of Form, so to speak—he becomes dependent upon the locality of his birth, he unites with his physical environment in a condition which is not designed for him. It would have been of no consequence whether he had incarnated in the middle third of his life or whether he had been born in the north, south, east or west. But because he has become dependent on his environment, because his youth is lived in the way I have described, he becomes Earth-bound, he becomes closely associated with, and an integral part of the geographical area where he was born. He cannot escape the environmental conditions of that locality—the incidence of the sun's rays, the proximity of the region to the Equator or to a more temperate zone, whether he is born in the lowlands or on a high plateau. The rate of respiration in the plains is different from that in the mountains. Man therefore becomes wholly dependent upon the environmental conditions of his birthplace. He becomes wholly identified with his native soil through his close association with the locality of his birth. He is moulded by those attributes which he thus receives because these etheric formative forces of the Earth associated with the particular locality where he is born are active in him. All these factors determine his racial character, and the abnormal Spirits of Form, those Spirits or Powers who are responsible for our present consciousness—not between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-three but at some other time—are indirectly the source of the racial differences in mankind everywhere, for these differences depend upon the particular locality where a man is born.

During the first third of life when, in effect, he is under the dominion of the abnormal Spirits of Form, man reaches sexual maturity and develops his capacity for reproduction. His reproductive capacity is acquired during the period when he is not wholly under the direction of the normal Spirits of Form. It is possible therefore that a man is not only dependent on the locality of his birth, but that the characteristics thus acquired may also be inherited by his descendants. Thus racial homogeneity is reflected not only in the influence of the habitat, but also in the racial inheritance. This explains why racial characteristics can be inherited and why, as we shall learn from Spiritual Science, it was only in the past that racial characteristics were determined by the locality where man was born. In the latter part of the Lemurian epoch and in the early Atlantean epoch, for example, man was directly dependent upon his physical environment. In later times race was no longer associated with locality, but was bound up with heredity. In race therefore we see something that was originally associated with a particular geographical region, was later passed on via inheritance, but became increasingly independent of a particular locality.

The period of evolution when one can justifiably speak of the idea of race will be clear to you from what I have just said. One cannot speak of race in the true sense of the term before the Lemurian epoch, for only then did man incarnate on Earth. Before that time he lived in the spiritual environment of the Earth. He then incarnated and racial characteristics were hereditary from the beginning of the Atlantean epoch up to our post-Atlantean epoch. We shall learn later how, in our own time, the national characteristics prepare in their turn the break-down of the racial characteristics and begin to eradicate them.

We must carefully avoid seeing evolution in the form of a perpetually revolving wheel, for this idea which is widely canvassed in many a mystical world-view serves only to confuse the true picture of evolution. If one pictures evolution as a wheel, revolving round a fixed centre and divided into so many races, then we fail to grasp that everything is in a state of evolution and that the races are evolving too. Races are born and will at some future time cease to exist. They do not repeat themselves in the same way as Sinnett mistakenly claims in his Esoteric Buddhism. We must look for the origin of racial characteristics in the old Lemurian epoch; we must follow their propagation down to our own day; at the same time we must realize that when our fifth post-Atlantean epoch is superseded by the sixth and seventh, race as such will have ceased to exist. But if we picture evolution as the mechanical, steady, continuous revolution of a wheel, then we carry the picture of a mill wheel in our mind and have not the slightest understanding of evolutionary processes.

The evolution of races begins therefore only in the Lemurian epoch through the activity of the abnormal Spirits of Form, who permit the etheric forces from the soil to intervene at the locality where man has to spend the first years of his life. And this influence is carried over to some extent into his later life because man is endowed with a memory, through which he still remembers even in his later life, the time spent under the influence of the abnormal Spirits before his twenty-first year on Earth. Man would be a totally different being if he were subject only to the influence of the normal Spirits of Form. Through the influence of the abnormal Spirits of Form he is dependent upon the particular locality in which he lives. I have already described how man departed from the laws of the normal Spirits of Form, with the result that the locality of his birth during a particular incarnation was of importance to him.

These relationships will become clearer to us if we take into account the following factor. To a certain extent the etheric forces emanating from the soil permeate the human organism so that man becomes dependent upon the soil of a particular geographical area. In this connection I should like to refer to certain regions of the Earth that are connected with the historical development of the human being. We shall discuss these relationships in more detail later on. I now propose to describe them in general.

Here is for example a point or a centre of cosmic influence situated in the interior of Africa. At this centre are active all those terrestrial forces emanating from the soil which can influence man especially during his early childhood. Later on their influence diminishes; man is less subject to these forces. Nevertheless their formative influences make a powerful impression upon him. The locality where a man lives exercises its most potent influence in early childhood and thereby determines for their whole life those who are completely dependent on these forces’ so that the particular locality impresses the characteristics of their early childhood permanently upon them. This is more or less typical of all those who, in respect of their racial character, are determined by the etheric formative forces of the Earth in the neighbourhood of that particular locality. The black or Negro race is substantially determined by these childhood characteristics.

If we now cross over to Asia, we find a point or centre where the formative forces of the Earth impress permanently on man the particular characteristics of later youth or adolescence and determine his racial character. Such races are the yellow and brown races of our time.

If we continue northward and then turn in a westerly direction towards Europe, a third point or centre is reached which permanently impresses upon man the characteristics of his adult life. In this way man is determined by the etheric forces emanating from the Earth. When we look more closely into these separate points or centres we find that they follow a line which takes an unusual direction. These centres still exist today. The centre in Africa corresponds to those terrestrial forces which imprint on man the characteristics of early childhood; the centre in Asia corresponds to those which give man the characteristics of youth, and the corresponding centre in Europe imprints upon man the characteristics of maturity. This is simply a universal law. Since all men in their different incarnations pass through the various races the claim that the European is superior to the black and yellow races has no real validity. In such cases the truth is sometimes veiled, but you see that with the help of Spiritual Science we do after all light upon remarkable truths.

If we continue this line (see diagram) still further westward we come to America, where the forces of old age, of the final third of life, are active. These forces—I beg you not to misunderstand what I am about to say, it only refers to man in so far as he is dependent upon the forces which determine his physical organism, the terrestrial forces of his environment, forces unrelated to his fundamental being—these forces are associated with the decline of man. This line which in reality describes a curve obeys a cosmic law and does in fact exist; it is a reality and expresses the law according to which our Earth acts upon man. The forces, which determine man's racial character, follow this cosmic pattern. The American Indians died out, not because of European persecutions, but because they were destined to succumb to those forces which hastened their extinction. The destiny of the races and the changes wrought by the forces which are not under the influence of the normal Spirits of Form are determined by the peculiar characteristics of these different centres of cosmic influence. When determining racial characteristics these Spirits work in this way; but in our age the racial character is gradually being overcome. The first steps in this direction were undertaken for the most part in the earliest period of the Earth's history. If we were to go back to the old Lemurian epoch we would find that the very first indications of racial development could be traced back to the regions of present-day Africa and Asia. Later, a migration westward sets in and as we follow westward the forces which determine race we note their decline amongst the American Indians. The death of races begins with their westward migration. In order to seek the rejuvenating forces, races migrate eastward, from Atlantis across Europe to Asia. Then the westward migration is repeated, but on this occasion we witness, not the movement of races but, as it were, a higher stage of racial development of civilizations. Thus in a certain way we see that the evolution of civilizations is characterized by a continuation of the racial development on a higher plane. For instance, the old Indian civilization, the first post-Atlantean civilization, to which we have already given due recognition in this lecture, corresponds to early childhood, the period when man's response to physical nature is still dormant, when he is receptive to the manifestations of a spiritual world.

The first Indian civilization is in fact a revelation from spiritual worlds and could only manifest in man because he came under the influence of the terrestrial forces of India to which he had already been subject from earliest times. In the primeval past men owed their racial characteristics to the etheric formative forces of the soil; now, they owed that disposition of soul peculiar to the ancient Indians to their continuous presence in the same geographical region. Through the migration from West to East they received those fresh, youthful forces which made possible the emergence of that peculiar spiritual configuration so typical of the original Indian civilization. Thus a very ancient Indian civilization which has not yet been studied and of which the Indian civilization now known to science is only an offshoot, can be explained by the fact that the Atlantean civilization is repeated to a certain extent in the primeval Indian civilization.

When we consider the successive civilizations of the post-Atlantean epoch, we can see that they represent successive recapitulations of conditions experienced earlier in the physical body, but which have been transformed through the forces of rejuvenation. Thus the Persian civilization shows a conflict between the virile forces of early manhood, when man is still subject to the influences of the abnormal Spirits of Form, and the forces which stem from the normal Spirits of Form. In the Persian civilization this dualism is reflected in the polarity of light and darkness, of Ormuzd and Ahriman.

The farther we move westward the more we see that the civilization bears the impress of the characteristics of a more mature age. We must admit that up to the present time the creations of man are still dependent to a large extent upon the abnormal forces and Beings of the universe. Nevertheless we can now understand that racial characteristics are no longer decisive factors as man moves westward and also that, to a certain extent, the tendency of civilization is such that its youthful vigour, its creative potentialities, decline more and more the further it moves towards the West.

To the unprejudiced observer a variety of factors serves to show that our contemporary civilization is also determined in this way in accordance with a fixed law. But people are not disposed to be objective. If you bear in mind that, in reality, all civilization is in a state of flux, you will then realize that the further we move westward, the less productive civilization becomes. As civilization it is already moribund. The further West one goes, the more civilization becomes externalized; it is no longer vitalized by the forces of youth, but is given over to the hardening forces of old age. Western man will still be able to benefit mankind by making valuable and important contributions in physics, chemistry and astronomy and in all fields which are independent of the rejuvenating forces of youth. But that which calls for creative energy requires a different configuration of those forces which work upon man.

Let us take the example of a man growing up from childhood to the stage when his spiritual life matures. He first develops physically. The forces concentrated within the youthful organism must be allowed to expand physically. Later, when growth is completed, these physical forces are turned inwards. Mankind in general undergoes a similar process. The curve of development which we have already described reveals a remarkable law which applies even to the continents. First of all we observe the first signs of man's development in Africa; then his native territory expands far afield. Characteristic of this expansion is the wide-open spaces of Asia where man inhabits vast tracts of country.

Let us now glance at the repetition of race development in the post-Atlantean civilizations. Just as in his youth man looks out with curiosity upon his environment, so does the man of the old Indian civilization look out into the world. This is associated with the fresh, youthful forces which help man to grow until he reaches his full stature when the spiritual life must begin to unfold and the physical must be compressed. As civilization advances westward into Europe it is remarkable that the geographical area which mankind inhabits is narrowed down to smaller and smaller lands. We observe that Europe is the smallest continent, and the further civilization moves westward the more it tends towards delimitation, and finally in its westward course is confined to peninsulas and islands.

All this is connected with the spiritual course of evolution. Here we have a unique insight into the mysteries of spiritual evolution. But with this narrowing of the geographical area a critical situation arises; on account of this crisis a more unproductive element begins to operate. Creative activity dies out to some extent in the peninsulas the further westward one goes. This creative impoverishment is illustrated in what I have already described, namely that civilization itself, the further it moves westward, becomes progressively more rigid and senile, and slowly declines. This was always known in the Mystery Schools. You will now understand why I said that what I had to communicate might be somewhat dangerous because people might take offence. By no means everything can be revealed that would enable man to command the higher members of his being so that he may perceive the terrestrial forces that determine the race, forces that later on determine the character of the civilization and which in a still later epoch will have lost their significance when man rediscovers his spiritual vision. Thus you will understand that the whole process of the evolution of mankind is connected with the spiritual evolution which has always been known to those who were initiated into the deeper secrets of existence. The truth of what I have just said does not depend upon whether one approves or disapproves; it depends upon evolutionary necessity. To deny this necessity is pointless; it serves only to put obstacles in the way of understanding. Therefore it is only natural that those w ho migrate to areas lying more to the West must seek rejuvenating power, spiritual substance, from the East; but Central Europe must call to mind its own creative activity as it existed before the formation of peninsulas and islands. That is why precisely in Europe—in the region embracing our two countries, Scandinavia and Germany—man has to draw upon the resources of his own soul-life and why, on the other hand, we must look especially in the West for that part of humanity which is to receive spiritual nourishment from the East. This urge is deeply rooted in the nature of all mankind. You see this repeated in the development of Spiritual Science. We witness it again in the fourth post-Atlantean civilization, amongst the Greeks and Romans. The Romans, it is true, are in certain respects more advanced than the Greeks, but they took their spiritual life from the people they conquered, who lived more towards the East.

The further countries lie to the West the more is the law thus revealed to us confirmed. Now these important truths can only be indicated; they reveal what accords with the inner nature of the future mission of mankind in every corner of the globe. We must understand therefore the task that lies before us if we wish to raise ourselves to the level of the all-human. Here lies the great responsibility which we take upon ourselves if we wish to participate in the spiritual evolution of mankind. In this realm neither personal sympathy nor personal enthusiasm may play a part. They are of no consequence; only what is determined by the great laws of humanity is decisive. The great laws themselves must apprise us of this; we must not allow ourselves to be prejudiced in favour of any particular law.

That is the fundamental characteristic of Rosicrucianism. Rosicrucianism implies acting in accordance with the evolution of all mankind. If we are aware of the configuration of the landscape we inhabit, including islands and peninsulas, then we shall realize what sentiments must fill our hearts if we seek to work for the benefit of the evolution of humanity.

In the remote past man descended to Earth under the guidance of the abnormal Spirits of Form and was associated with his particular geographical region. Thus the foundations were laid for the development of the races. Then a progressive intermingling of the races takes place. The evolution of races is interrupted to make way for the evolution of nations; i.e. nations develop out of races. And the development of nations enters even into the evolution of the individual human being. Behind the question, who was Plato, what was his origin and ancestry, a great mystery is concealed. He was an individual who grew up in the lineage of Solon, was a member of the Ionian tribe, the Greek nation and the whole Caucasian race. The realization that Plato was a descendant of Solon, an Ionian, a Greek, a Caucasian, expresses a profound mystery if we understand the law behind it. It shows us how the normal and abnormal Spirits of Form whose major concern is to prepare man's incarnation on Earth work in concert over the whole Earth, how, by this cooperative activity, the human race is subdivided and how then those other Beings intervene of whom we have already spoken when describing the characteristics of the several peoples. Each individual is intimately associated with these processes by means of which all these higher Beings, these higher Spirits, determine the evolution of the world by their cooperative activity.

We cannot understand the individual if we do not see how he owes his whole development to the cooperation of these Beings. Because a Caucasian race was once created on Earth through the mysterious interplay of the normal and abnormal Spirits of Form the stage was set for the incarnation of a Plato. And because we are aware of the intervention of the normal and abnormal Archangels down to the Angels, we realize the steps which were necessary to bring forth a Plato whom we could recognize as a human being endowed with the specific human attributes of thinking, feeling and willing. The nation occupies an intermediate position between the race and the individual.

It was first necessary therefore to outline the conditions fundamental to the evolution of race. Tomorrow we shall discuss the emergence of nations out of races, the intervention of other Spirits of the Hierarchies and especially their intervention in the activity of the Spirits of Form.