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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Aspects of Human Evolution
GA 176

This volume goes deeply into questions of the soul's evolving, changing needs for development. Steiner shows how the natural development of the soul stops at about the age of 27. After that we no longer inwardly grow unless we bring it about ourselves. Steiner also explains that a comprehension of how we arrive at aesthetic assessments is dependent on an understanding of the higher members of the human being and their relationships to the lower members. This volume along with Karma of Materialism completes the entire German volume GA 176.

The eight lectures presented here were given between May and July of 1917 in Berlin. In the collected edition of Rudolf Steiner's works, the volume containing the German texts is entitled, Menschliche und menschheitliche Entwicklungswahrheiten. Das Karma des Materialismus. They were translated from the German by Rita Stebbing.

Publisher's Note
Foreword by J. Leonard Benson
Lecture I May 29, 1917
The general age of mankind as a whole is receding. This means that the development of man's soul and spirit ceases to be dependent on the physical body at an ever earlier age. At the time of the ancient Indian cultural epoch this dependence lasted up to the age of 56, receding during that epoch to 49. During the Persian epoch it receded to the age of 42, during the Egyptian-Chaldean epoch to the age of 35, during the Graeco-Latin epoch to the age of 28, so that at the beginning of the present fifth post-Atlantean epoch man's soul and spirit were dependent on the physical body only up to the age of 28 and it has by now receded to the age of 27. This has far-reaching consequences for mankind's evolution. At the time the Mystery of Golgotha took place mankind's age had receded to 33 and therefore coincided exactly with the age of Christ Jesus. This event bestowed upon man the power to take his inner development in hand which will otherwise cease at the age of 27.
Lecture II June 05, 1917
The necessity not only for different, but for more mobile concepts. Goethe's greatest contribution was his ability to bring movement into concepts. The concepts of spiritual science are not only new but of necessity mobile. The experience of God the Father is bound up with the growing, thriving forces of the body. When the bodily forces began to decline in ancient times man could experience the spirit of the cosmos, later known as the Christ, because his soul and spirit were still dependent on the body in mature age. As the age of mankind receded, so did the experience of the cosmic Christ. To be an atheist is an illness, to deny the Christ a tragic destiny, not to recognize the spirit is blindness of soul.
Lecture III June 19, 1917
Because of the soul and spirit's dependence on the body in the early post-Atlantean epochs, people grew wise as they grew old. The elders were therefore the natural lawgivers. People experienced the spirits of the elements. This meant that the earth was experienced as a living being whose physiognomy was reflected in the various cultures. In the Persian culture the teaching of Ormuzd and Ahriman, of Light and Darkness, arose as a consequence of man's experience of the spiritual world growing dark when, on awakening, he plunged into the body. In the Egyptian-Chaldean epoch arose the cult of the stars. In the Greek epoch, what had formerly been direct experience became philosophy, mainly through Aristotle. Christ's union with mankind's evolution was an inherent necessity. Modern theologians speak of Christ, but what they describe is God the Father. Thoughts become ever more abstract in the West, whereas in Eastern Europe an intellectuality is developing which expresses itself mystically. The manifesto sent out by Czar Peter III was formulated in concrete concepts and led to the ending of the Seven Years War. The ideas emerging in the West in regard to the 1914 world war are completely abstract, with no relation to the reality.
Lecture IV June 26, 1917
Two aspects of the modern world's attitude to spiritual knowledge are described. On the one hand a modern scientist, Moritz Benedikt, arrives at a recognition of Goethe's theory of color, purely through his scientific research into the phenomenon of water divining. On the other, a modern professor of philosophy, Max Dessoir, not only rejects the science of the spirit, but by misquoting at great length passages from Occult Science and other books he deliberately sets out to falsify it.
Lecture V July 3, 1917
Franz Brentano — a representative of modern striving man. His deep concern is the true nature of the human soul. But without spiritual insight he has no possibility of arriving at proper answers to his questions concerning the true and the good. Brentano's greatness reveals itself not so much in his conclusions, as in the earnestness of his striving. The reality of truth and the source of the good cannot be discovered without insight into the higher members of man's being; nor can a true comprehension of how we arrive at aesthetic assessments. That is why the abstract conclusions put forward by Kant and his followers have no basis in reality. The experience of pure thinking is the first step in modern clairvoyance. Unless instincts for the good are brought into the light of consciousness, they do not enter the stream of heredity. Only concepts based on spiritual knowledge can produce effective solutions to legal, moral and social questions.
Lecture VI July 10, 1917
To imagine self-knowledge to be simple is an illusion. The I is complex; we encounter it as a shadowy picture in the conceptual sphere. This picture is the seed of what will become our I in the next life, as the seed in a plant will become plant the following spring. It can be enriched if man develops a sense for the hidden connection between events. Example of the gypsy and Rousseau. The I which is sought through the will works across from man's former life on earth. By developing a sense for hidden karmic connections, man can gain insight into life in the spiritual world before birth. Example of the meeting between Bernstein and Stepniack just before the death of the latter. Wrong comparisons lead to wrong conclusions. Example of triangle and worm.
Lecture VII July 17, 1917
Man no longer experiences the Rubicon he crosses when in his thirties the bodily forces begin to decline. This is because his soul and spirit become independent from the body at the age of 27. When the dependence lasted into mature age, he grew naturally wise. The elders in ancient India were super-geniuses. Now man does not grow wise beyond the age of 27 unless he develops through his own inner initiative. He remains at age 27 even if he lives to be a hundred years old. This means he produces nothing that can carry evolution forward into the future. A perfect example of a brilliant personality who remained at a soul age of 27 although he accomplished much is Lloyd George. Just because he had no affinity with impulses stemming from another age group, he became, as did others, a puppet manipulated by individuals who possessed occult powers through ancient impulses and traditions, powers which brought about the 1914 world war.
Lecture IV July 24, 1917
The importance of truth being experienced as a living reality. Only now is the moment right for the revelation the connection between the individual and the age of mankind. The concepts of spiritual science establish a connection with spiritual reality. Only what is in the process of becoming is alive. The West suffers from a superstitious belief in the printed word, in what has become detached from man. This tendency has opened the door for evil practices in certain quarters. Eastern Europe is preparing the way, though as yet it has hardly begun, for true individuality, for ethical individualism. Eastern, Central, and Western Europe can only be understood if seen, not only side by side in space, but in a historical sense following one another.