Genesis - Secrets of the Bible Story of Creation
IV. The Forming and Creating of Beings by the Elohim. The Aeons or Time-Spirits
20 August 1910, Munich
We have pointed out that in the Genesis account of the coming into existence of the earth, there is first of all a recapitulation of those earlier stages of evolution which today can only be reached through the clairvoyant investigation which we recognise as the source of our anthroposophical world outlook. If we recall what we have learnt from that source about the conditions of evolution in periods prior to the existence of our earth, we remember that what later became our solar system was contained in a planetary existence which we call Saturn. We must be quite clear that this ancient Saturn consisted solely of interrelationships of warmth. If anyone, from the standpoint of modern physics, raises an objection to my speaking of a cosmic body consisting only of warmth, I must refer him to what I said two days ago — that I could myself raise all the scientific objections against the things said here today or at any other time. But there is really not time in these lectures to touch on what this gullible modern science has to say. Faced with the sources of spiritual scientific investigation, the whole range of modern scientific knowledge seems pretty amateurish. I do intend one day to deal with many of the objections raised. I shall probably begin next spring at the time of my lecture cycle in Prague; and I shall there speak not only of the whole basis of Anthroposophy, but in order to satisfy contemporary minds, I shall speak also of the arguments against it. My Prague cycle will be preceded by two public lectures, of which the first will be called: How can Anthroposophy be refuted? And the second: How can Anthroposophy be substantiated? 1These lectures were in fact given in Prague in March 1911, and repeated in Stuttgart in November of the same year, and again in Munich and Berlin in 1912. Only the Berlin lectures have been published. (Ergebnisse der Geistesforschung, Basle, 1941.) They have not been translated. Later I shall repeat these lectures at other places, and people will then see that we are fully aware of the objections which can be made against what is taught in Anthroposophy. Anthroposophy has a firm foundation, and those who think they are able to refute it do not yet understand it. Time will show in the long run that this is so. As to Saturn's state of warmth, let me once more draw attention to certain observations in my book Occult Science, which may also help to satisfy those who are prompted by their scientific training to object.
Having said this, I feel free to resume my exposition from the anthroposophical standpoint, without further reference to well-meant objections. In Saturn, then, there was an interweaving of varying conditions of warmth. Let us get hold of that quite clearly. The Genesis account describes a repetition within the developing earth of this ancient Saturn state, these relationships of warmth or fire. That is the first thing in the elementary existence which we have to hold fast to. But mark, please, in what sense we speak of warmth or fire in the case of such a lofty existence as that of the Saturn evolution. We shall not get anywhere near it by striking a match or lighting a candle and examining the warmth of physical existence. We have to think of it as much more spiritual — or perhaps better say more psychic. Feel your way into yourself as a warmth-bearing being — and this feeling of your own warmth, experience of your own soul-warmth, will give you a proximate idea of that interweaving warmth in Saturn.
Then we pass on to the Sun, the second phase of the evolution of our planet, and speak of how in elementary existence warmth condensed to the gaseous or aeriform. Thus in the elementary existence of the Sun we have to distinguish between warmth and the gaseous or aery. We have already pointed out that together with the condensation of warmth into air — that is to say, with the descent of the elemental consistency in the direction of density — there is a corresponding ascent towards a more rarefied, more etheric condition, so that if we call “air” the elementary condition next below warmth, we must call the condition next above warmth, light, or light-ether. Thus, if we look at elementary conditions as a whole during the Sun evolution, we shall say that in the Sun there is an interpenetration of warmth, light and air, and all life during that time manifested itself within this condition of warmth, light and air. Now we must once more make clear that if we take into consideration only these elementary manifestations of warmth, light and air, we are only considering the outer aspect — the maya, the illusion — of what is really there. In reality spiritual Beings are announcing themselves externally by means of warmth, light and air. It is somewhat as if we were to stretch out our hand into a heated space and say to ourselves: “Since there is warmth in this space, there must be a Being who disseminates this warmth, and finds thereby means of manifestation.”
When we pass on to the Moon, there again we have warmth as the middle condition, condensing below into air or gas and still further below into water. Light once more makes its appearance above. Then, above the light, we have a finer, more etheric state. I have already said that we may give the name “sound-ether” to what works within substances as an organising principle, causing chemical combinations and chemical analyses; it is something which man can only recognise with his external senses when it is transmitted by the air, but it lies spiritually behind all existence. We might call it “ringing” or tonic ether. Alternatively, because this spiritual sound organises material existence according to number and weight, we might also call it the ether of numbers. Thus we rise from light to sound, but we do not confuse this sound with the external sound which is carried over the air, but recognise it as something which is only perceptible when the clairvoyant sense is in some way awakened. Thus both in the Moon itself and in what works upon it from without we have to see, in elementary form, warmth, air, water, light and sound.
When we reach the fourth condition, and with it the coming into existence of the earth proper, a further stage of condensation and a further stage of rarefaction are added — below, the earthy or solid; above, the life-ether, which is a still finer ether than the sound-ether. So we may describe the elementary existence of the earth in this way. Warmth is again the middle state; as denser conditions we have air, water, solid; as rarer conditions we have light, sound and life ethers. In order to be quite sure that nothing is left vague in this exposition, I will once more state explicitly that what I describe as “earth” or “solid” must not be confused with what modern science calls earth. What is described here is something which is not directly visible around us. Of course, what we tread upon when we tread the earth's soil is earth, in so far as it is solid; but so are gold, silver, copper and tin, earth. Everything of a solid material nature is earth in the sense of occultism. The modern physicist will of course say that there is nothing in this distinction — that he himself differentiates between our various elements, but that he has no knowledge of any primeval substance lying behind those elements. It is only when the clairvoyant eye penetrates the external elements — some seventy of them — and seeks the basis of solidity, when he looks for the forces which organise matter into the solid state, it is only then that he discovers the forces which construct, which build, which combine solid, liquid and gaseous. That is what we are referring to here, and that too is what Genesis is referring to. We shall, then, expect to find that according to Genesis the three earlier conditions are in some way recapitulated in earth existence, but that the fourth state appears as something new.
Let us check the account by the same method that we used in earlier lectures. In the coming into existence of our earth we should expect to find a repetition of the Saturn state. In other words we should expect to find the Saturn warmth working as an expression of a soul-spiritual. And this is what we do find, if we understand the account rightly. I have told you that the words which are usually translated And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters really mean that the soul-spiritual of the Elohim expanded and that a warmth element — the kind of warmth we conceive to be rayed down from the hen to the egg in the act of brooding — penetrated the existing elementary condition. In saying “The spirit of the Elohim radiates as a brooding warmth through the elementary existence, or the waters,” you indicate the recapitulation of the Saturn warmth.
The next condition has to be one which represents a recapitulation of the Sun evolution. For the time being let us ignore the condensation process which goes on from warmth to air, and let us turn our attention to the process of rarefaction, to the element of light. Let us take the fact that during the solar period light penetrates into our cosmic space, and then the recapitulation of the ancient Sun evolution will be the permeation by light of our developing earth. That is announced in the mighty words: And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
The third recapitulation, considered with reference to the finer elementary states, must consist in the fact that the organising, tonic or sound-ether permeates our nascent earth. Let us then ask ourselves whether there is in fact any indication of such a recapitulation of the Moon evolution in the Genesis account. What should we expect to find? We should expect the sound-ether to set to work to organise the elementary substance, rather as the fine powder spread on a plate is organised when we pass across the plate the bow of a violin, and the sound-forms of Chladni appear. There would have to be a recapitulation which would be recorded somewhat like this: “The tonic or sound-ether set to work to organise matter in a certain way.” But what is actually reported about the moment of creation which followed upon the coming into existence of light? We are told that something was stimulated by the Elohim in the material elementary mass which caused it to radiate in the upward direction and to gather itself together, to contract, in the downward direction, as I described to you yesterday. A force enters into the elementary matter and organises it, just as sound takes hold of the powder and brings about the Chladni figures. Just as the powder is organised, so the elementary mass is organised through the radiation upward of part of it, and the concentration downward of the other part. The word rakia, which is used to indicate what the Elohim introduced into the elementary matter, is difficult to translate, and the usual translations are inadequate to render it correctly. Even when one takes into account all that can today be contributed towards its elucidation, including what philology has to say, one is bound to confess that neither the translation “firmament” nor any of its variants takes us very far. For there is an element of activity, of stimulation in this word. And a more precise philology would find that there is contained in this word what I have just indicated — that the Elohim stimulated something in the elementary matter which may be compared with what is stimulated in the powder ofthe Chladni sound-figures when sound sets to work to organise it. As the powder is organised in the case of the Chladni sound-figures, so the elementary mass is disposed upward and downward on the second “day” of creation. Thus, in the Genesis account, following the intervention of the light-ether, we see that of the sound-ether, and the second “day” of creation gives us, quite in accordance with the facts, what we must understand as a recapitulation of the Moon evolution.
You will soon see that these recapitulations cannot come about in an entirely straightforward manner, but that they overlap one another. And the apparent contradiction between today's exposition and that of yesterday will soon be explained. The recapitulation takes place in such a way that first there happens what I am now describing, and then there is a more comprehensive recapitulation, such as I described yesterday.
After the moment when the sound-ether has so disposed the substances that some radiate upward, and others accumulate below, we should expect to find that something sets to work as a still finer condition, one which we must call the earth element proper — what we have called the life-ether. After the second “day” of creation something should happen which would indicate to us that life-ether was streaming into the elementary mass of our earth, just as previously light and organising sound had poured in. There should be some phrase in Genesis to indicate that life-ether thrilled through the mass and caused life to stir, caused life to unfold. Look at the Genesis account of the third “day” of creation. It tells us how the earth causes green things to grow, the living element of tree and herb — as I said yesterday, in the mode of species — after his kind. There we have a vivid description of the instreaming of the life-ether, which evokes everything that is said to have come into being on the third day.
Thus in Genesis we find all that clairvoyant investigation can bring to light — which is what we should expect, if it really derives from occult knowledge. It is all there if we know how to interpret it. It is a wonderful experience to find confirmed in Genesis what we have first discovered by independent investigation. I can assure you that in the description I gave in my Occult Science of the coming into existence of the earth as a recapitulation of the Saturn, Sun and Moon evolutions, I quite deliberately and scrupulously ignored anything which could have been learnt from Genesis. I only described what I was able to discover quite independently of that ancient record. But if you then compare these independent findings with the Genesis account, you see that the latter says just what our independent investigation has enabled us to say. That is the remarkable consonance to which I called attention yesterday, when what we can say of our own accord comes sounding back to us from the spiritual faculties of seers who speak to us across thousands of years.
Thus, in the first three “days” of creation, we see as
regards the finer elements of the earth's nature a successive activity
of warmth, light, sound-ether and life-ether, and in what these
activities stimulate and enliven we see at the same time the development
of stages of densification — from warmth to air, then to water and
finally to solid, to the earth element, in the way I have described.
The processes of densification and of rarefaction interpenetrate one
another and together they give us a unified picture of the coming into
existence of our earth. Whether we speak of the denser states —
air, water, earth — or of the more rarefied states —
light-ether, sound-ether, life-ether — we are concerned with
manifestations, with the outer garments, as it were, of soul-spiritual
Beings. Of these soul-spiritual Beings the first to appear before the
mind's eye in the Genesis account are the Elohim, and the question
arises: what kind of Beings are the Elohim? So that we may know where we
are, we must be able to give them their proper place in the order of the
hierarchies. You will no doubt remember, from the various lectures I
have given in the course of years, or from what you have read in my
Occult Science, that in the hierarchical order going from above
downward, we distinguish, first, a trinity which we call the Seraphim,
Cherubim and Thrones. You know that then we come to a second hierarchy
which we call the Kyriotetes or Dominions, 2Colos. 1:16 and Eph 1:21.
The “Dynameis” of Dionysius the Areopagite is sometimes translated “Virtues.” Cf. Milton's Paradise Lost. the Dynameis or Mights, and the Exusiai or Powers, or Revelations; when we come to the lowest trinity, we usually make use of Christian designations, and speak of Archai, or Principalities, or Spirits of Personality; of Archangeloi or Archangels; of Angeloi or Angels. Those in this lowest group are the spiritual Beings who stand nearest to man. Only then do we come to man himself, as the tenth member within the hierarchical order. Now the question is, where within this order do the Elohim belong?
We find them in the second of these trinities, and identify them with those Beings whom we call Exusiai or Powers, or Spirits of Form. We know from what we have been taught for years that during the Saturn evolution the Archai, the Spirits of Personality, were at the human stage, the stage at which we ourselves now stand. During the Sun evolution the Archangeloi or Archangels had their human stage; and during earth existence it is man who is at this stage. One grade above the Spirits of Personality we have the Spirits of Form, the Exusiai, who are also called Elohim. Thus the Elohim are lofty, sublime spiritual Beings who had advanced beyond the human stage before the time of Saturn, when our planetary existence began. We get an idea of the sublimity of these Beings if we bring home to ourselves that in the order of the hierarchies they stand four stages above the human. The spirituality which was weaving in this realm — which was, so to say, practising cosmic meditation, cosmic musing — and out of this cosmic meditation brought about our earth existence, was four stages above the human stage. Spiritual Beings at this stage can through their meditation work creatively — they are not, as men are, limited to the creation of thought forms. Because the meditative activity of the Elohim is four stages higher than human thinking, it is not merely an organising, a creative activity within the sphere of thought, but it forms and creates existence.
Having said this to begin with, the question now arises, what of the other hierarchies? First we should like to know what part was played in the Genesis account by the Beings whom we have called the Archai, or the Spirits of Personality. They constitute the next lower rank in the hierarchies. Let us once more remind ourselves that in the Elohim we have highly exalted Beings, Beings who at the time of the Saturn evolution had already risen above the human stage. They were active throughout the whole of the Saturn, Sun and Moon evolutions, creating and organising, and they are at work too in the earth evolution. Should we not expect to find the Spirits of Personality, the hierarchy next below that of the Elohim, mentioned in the Genesis account? Since we know what lofty, sublime Beings the Elohim are, we should expect to find the Principalities, or Spirits of Personality, at work in their service. Is there any indication in Genesis that after the Elohim had unfolded the main creative activity they made use of the Archai or Principalities as their servants in lesser activities? We know that the chief, the most comprehensive activity is undertaken by the Elohim themselves; but after they had laid down the main lines, so to say, after they had exercised their great creative forces, did they not appoint other Beings such as the Archai to represent them on the spot?
To find the answer to this question we must first learn to understand Genesis in the right way. There is a passage in the Genesis account which has been a veritable stumbling-block to all the commentators, because for centuries they have completely ignored what occult investigation has had to say about the real meaning of the words with which our Bible opens. If you are at all familiar with modern Biblical criticism, you will know what difficulty this point has caused the commentators. There is a sentence in Genesis which is rendered And God divided the light from the darkness, and it is then made to appear that light and darkness alternated. I shall come back again to a closer examination of the words. For the time being I will make use of a translation into modern speech — it is not correct, and I am only using it provisionally. At a certain point it says: And the evening and the morning were the first day. And further: And God called the light Day. This is a real stumbling-block for the world of letters! What then is a “day” of creation? The naive intellect regards a day as lasting twenty-four hours, as something which alternates between light and darkness, as does our day, during which we wake and sleep. Now of course you all know how much scorn has been heaped upon this naive idea of the creation of the world in seven such days. You perhaps also know how much labour — how much fruitless labour-has been applied to the task of identifying the seven days of creation with longer or shorter periods — geological epochs and so on — so as to make a “day” of creation signify some longer period of time.
The first difficulty arises of course when one comes to the fourth “day,” when Genesis first speaks of the setting up of sun and moon as directing time. Now every child today knows that the regulation of our twenty-four-hour day depends upon the relationship of the earth to the sun. But since the sun was not there until the fourth “day,” we cannot speak of a twenty-four-hour day earlier than that. Thus anyone who tries to adhere to the naive belief that the day of the creation story is a day of twenty-four hours has to do violence to the Genesis account itself. There may of course be such people; but it must be objected to them that in insisting that Genesis refers to days such as ours they are certainly not supported by revelation. As to the vagaries of those who try to find a way out by giving a geological meaning to these “days” of creation, they are really not worth bothering about. For in the whole range of the literature of the subject there is not the slightest evidence that the word yom (יוֹם) signifies anything resembling a geological epoch.
What then is the meaning of the word yom, which is usually translated as “day”? Only those can form a judgment about this who are able to transport themselves in feeling, in attitude of soul, into ancient methods of naming things. The process of nomenclature in ancient times needed quite a different kind of feeling from what we have today. To avoid too great a shock, let us take it step by step. Let me first draw your attention to a doctrine held by the Gnostics. They spoke of spiritual powers who played a part in our existence, who entered successively into the development of our existence, and these powers, these Beings, they called Aeons. By these Aeons they do not mean periods of time, but Beings. They mean that a first Aeon acts, and, having executed the work of which he is capable, is succeeded by a second Aeon, and after the second has exhausted his capacities, a third takes over, and so on. When the Gnostics spoke of Aeons, they meant Beings guiding development in succession, one taking over from another. It was only very much later that the purely abstract concept of time was associated with the word “Aeon.” Aeon is a Being, a living entity. And just as “Aeon” expresses “living entity,” so too does the Hebrew word yom. It has nothing to do with a merely abstract designation of time, but conveys the quality of being. Yom is a Being. And when one is dealing with seven such yamim following one another, one is dealing with seven consecutive Beings or groups of Beings.
We find the same thing elsewhere concealed in a verbal resemblance. In the Aryan languages there is a connection between deus and dies — god and day. There is an essential inner relationship between this pair of words; in earlier times the connection between “day” and a Being was clearly felt, and when one spoke of weekdays, as we speak of Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and so on, one did not mean simply periods of time, but the groups of Beings working in Sun, Moon, Mars and so on. Let us then understand the word yom, which is usually rendered “day,” to mean a spiritual Being; then you have the hierarchical Beings one stage lower than the Elohim, Beings whom the Elohim used as subordinate spirits. After the Elohim through their higher organising powers had brought light into existence, they then appointed to his post Yom, the first of the Time-Spirits, or the Archai. Thus the spiritual Beings whom we call Spirits of Personality, or Principalities, are the same as those called in Genesis, Time-Intervals, Days, Yamin. They are the servants of the Elohim. They carry out what the Elohim direct from their higher standpoint. Those of you who heard the lectures which I gave recently in Christiania 3The Mission of Folk-Souls See footnote, p. 71. will remember that there too I called the Archai Time-Spirits, and described how they still work as Time-Spirits today. They were the servants of the Elohim. They were appointed by the Elohim to carry out the plans for which they themselves had laid down the main lines. In this way everything fits together into one great system, even for our understanding. But of course it is only when you have followed up what I am saying for years that you will acquire a real grasp of how everything without exception falls into place.
The exalted Beings of the Elohim entered into this interweaving of the several ethers, and of air, water and earth, and appointed Beings below them in rank as their servants. They gave these Beings their orders, so to say. In the moment when the Elohim had poured light into existence, they passed over to these Beings the task of carrying out in detail what had been set going. Thus we may say that after the Elohim had created the light, they appointed the first Time-Spirit to represent them. It is this Spirit who is hidden behind the customary phrase “the first day.” We shall only understand the still deeper meaning of this first day when we also understand what lies behind the verse: And the evening and the morning were the first day. The first of the Time-Spirits entered into activity, and with this activity was associated what can be described as an alternation of ereb (עֶרֶב) and boker (בֹּקֶר). Ereb is not the same thing as evening, and boker is not the same thing as morning. An appropriate translation would be: “There was ereb, confusion; and there followed boker, organisation.” There was a state of disorder, and it was followed by a state of order, of harmony, brought about by the work of the first of the Time-Spirits.