The Evolution of the Earth and Man and The Influence of the Stars
30 June 1924, Dornach
Rudolf Steiner: Good morning, gentlemen! Has anyone thought of a question?
Herr Dollinger: I would like to ask if Dr. Steiner would speak again about the creation of the world and man. There are many newcomers here who have not yet heard it.
Dr. Steiner: It is asked if I could speak again about the creation of the world and of humanity, since many new workers are here. I will do this by first describing the original conditions on the earth, which have led on the one hand to all that we see around us and on the other hand to man.
Now man is really a very, very complicated being. If people think they will be able to understand him by dissecting a human corpse, they are mistaken, for naturally they will not arrive at a real understanding. Just as little can they understand the world around us if all they do is collect stones and plants and look at the individual items. We must be able to realize that what we examine does not show at first sight what it actually is.
You see, if we look at a corpse, perhaps soon after the man has died — he still has the same form, if perhaps a little paler — we can see that death has seized him, but he still has the same form that he had when alive. But now think: how does this corpse look eventually if we do not cremate it but let it decay? It is destroyed; there is no longer anything at work in it that could build it up again; it is definitely destroyed.
The beginning of the Bible is very much smiled at, and indeed justifiably, when it is understood to say that once upon a time some god formed a man out of a clod of earth. People regard that as impossible and naturally they are right. No god can come along and make a human being out of a lump of earth; it would be no more a man than a statue is, however similar the form might be — no more than the mannequin children make can actually walk. So people smile rightly when some divinity is supposed to have made man out of a lump of earth.
That corpse that we were looking at is, in fact, after a certain time just such a clod of earth as it becomes in the grave somewhat decomposed, dissolved. So to believe that a human being can be made out of what we then have before us is really just as great a folly.
You see, on the one hand it is asserted today that it is incorrect to suppose that man could be formed from a lump of earth; on the other hand one is allowed to suppose that he consists of earth alone. If one wants to be logical, then the one is no better than the other. One must be clear that while the man lived there was something in him that gave him his shape and form, and when it is no longer in him he can no longer keep his form. Nature forces do not give him this form; nature forces merely break it apart, they do not make it grow. So we must go back to the soul and spirit of the man, which were really in control as long as he was living.
Now when we look at the lifeless stone outside, if we imagine that it has always been the same as it is today, that is just as if we would say of the corpse that it had always been like that even while the man was living. The stones that we see today in the world outside, the rocks, the mountains, are just the same as a corpse; in fact, they are a corpse! They were not always as they are today. Just as a human corpse was not always what it is now that the soul and spirit have gone, so what we see outside has not always been in its present condition. The fact that plants grow on the lifeless corpse, that is, on the rocks, need not surprise us; for when a human corpse decays, all sorts of tiny plants and tiny animals grow out of it.
Of course, what is outside in nature seems beautiful, and what we see on a corpse when all sorts of parasitic plants are growing out of it does not seem beautiful. But that is only because the one is gigantic in size and the other is small. If we were not human beings but were tiny beetles crawling about on a decaying corpse and could think like human beings, we would regard the bones of the corpse as rocks. We would consider what was decayed as rubble and stones; we would-since we were tiny beetles-see great forests in what was growing on the corpse; we would have a whole world to admire and not think it revolting as we do now.
Just as we must go back to what the man was before he died, so, in the case of the earth and our surroundings, we must go back to what once lived in all that today is lifeless, before indeed the earth as a whole died. Unless the earth as a whole had died there could be no human being. Human beings are parasites, as it were, on the present earth. The whole earth was once alive; it could think as you and I now think. But only when it became a corpse could it produce the human race. This is something really everyone can realize if he will just think. But people today do not want to think. Yet one must think if one would come to the truth.
We have, therefore, to imagine that what is today solid rock with plants growing, and so on, was originally entirely different. Originally there was a living, thinking, cosmic body-a living, thinking, cosmic body!
I have often said here: What do people today imagine? They imagine that originally there was a gigantic mist, that this primeval mist came into rotation, that the planets then split off, that the sun became the center. This is taught to children quite early, and a little experiment is made to show that everything really did start in that way. A few drops of oil are put in a glass of water; one lets the oil swim on the water. A piece of cardboard has a pin stuck through it; then with the pin one makes the cardboard revolve; little oil-drops split off, go on revolving, and a tiny planetary system actually forms with the sun in the center. 1“The little Plateau experiment,” worked out by the physicist J.A.E Plateau, 1801 – 1883. Compare the description by Vincent Knauer in his lectures, “The Main Problem of Philosophy,” Vienna and Leipzig 1892: “One of the nicest experiments is the Plateau experiment. A mixture of water and alcohol is prepared, having the exact weight of pure olive oil. Into this is poured a rather large drop of oil. This does not float on top of the liquid but sinks to the middle of it, in the form of a ball. A small disc of cardboard is then perforated in the center by a long needle and lowered carefully into the middle of the ball of oil, so that the edge of the cardboard becomes the ‘equator’ of the ball. The disc is now set into motion, at first slowly, then faster and faster. Naturally the movement is imparted to the ball of oil, and as a result of the strength of the movement, parts of the oil drop away and continue the movement separately for some time, first in circles, then revolving as tiny balls. In this way there arises something surprisingly similar to our planetary system: in the center the largest globe, like our sun, and moving around it smaller balls and rings, like our planets with their moons.”
Well now, it is usually quite a virtue if one can forget oneself, but in this case the teacher should not! When he makes the experiment, he ought then to say to the children: Out there in the universe is a giant schoolteacher who did the rotating!
What it amounts to is thoughtlessness — not because the facts oblige one to be thoughtless, but because one wants to be. But in that way one doesn't arrive at the truth.
We must therefore imagine not that a gigantic schoolteacher was there who rotated the world mist, but that there was something in the world mist itself that was able to move and so on. But there we come back to the living. If we want to rotate, we don't need a pin stuck through us with which a teacher rotates us. That's not for us; we can rotate ourselves. This schoolroom variety of primeval mist would have to be rotated by a schoolteacher. But if it is living and can feel and think, then it needs no cosmic schoolteacher; it can cause the rotation itself.
So we must picture that what today is lifeless around us was once alive, was sensitive, was a cosmic being. If we look further, there was even a great number of cosmic beings animating the whole. The original conditions of the world are therefore due to the fact that there was Spirit within the substance.
Now what is it that underlies everything material? Imagine that I have a lump of lead in my hand, that is, solid matter, thoroughly solid matter. Now if I put this lead on red-hot iron or on anything red-hot, on fire, it turns to fluid. If I work on it still further with fire, the whole lead vanishes; it evaporates, and I see nothing more of it. It is the same with all substances. On what does it depend then that a substance is solid? It depends upon what warmth is in it. The appearance of a substance depends only upon how much warmth is in it.
You know, today one can make the air liquid, then one has liquid air. The air we have in our surroundings is only airy, gaseous, as long as it contains a definite amount of warmth. And water — water is fluid, but it can also become ice and therefore solid. If there were a certain cold temperature on our earth there would be no water, but only ice. Now let us go into our mountains: there we find the solid granite or other solid rock. But if it were immensely hot there, there would be no solid granite; it would be fluid and flow away like the water in our brooks.
What then is actually the original element that makes things solid or fluid or gaseous? It is heat! And unless heat is there in the first place, nothing at all can be solid or fluid. So we can say that heat or fire is what is underlying everything in the beginning.
That is also shown by the research of spiritual science or anthroposophy. Spiritual science shows that originally there was not a primeval mist, a lifeless mist, but that living warmth was there at the beginning, simple living warmth. Thus I will assume an original cosmic body that was living warmth. [See drawing – red.] In my Occult Science I have called this original warmth condition the “Saturn condition”; it has been called this from ancient times, and though one must have a name, it is not the name that matters. It has, in fact, something to do with the cosmic body Saturn, but we will not go into that now.
In this original condition there were as yet no solid bodies and no air, only warmth; but the warmth was living. When you freeze today, it's your ego that freezes; when you sweat today, it's your ego that sweats, that becomes thoroughly hot. You are always in warmth, sometimes heat, sometimes cold, but always in some kind of warmth. In fact, we can still see today that man lives in warmth. The human being lives absolutely in warmth.
When modern science says that originally there was great heat, in a certain sense it is right; but when it thinks that this great heat was dead, then it is wrong. There was a living cosmic being, a thoroughly living cosmic being.
Now the first thing to come about in connection with this warmth-being was a cooling down. Things cool down continually. And what happens when what has been nothing but warmth now cools down? Air arises, air, the gaseous state. For when we go on heating a solid object, gas is formed in the warmth; but when something not yet substance cools down from above downwards, air is formed at first. So we can say that the second condition to come about was gaseous, definitely airy. [See drawing-green.]
In what has been formed, in a certain sense, as a second cosmic body everything is air. There is as yet no water, nothing solid within it; it consists entirely of air.
So now we have the second condition that formed itself in the course of time. You see, in this second condition something else developed along with what was already there. I have called this second condition “Sun” in my Occult Science; it was not the present sun, but a kind of Sun condition, a warm air-mist. The present sun, as I have told you, is not that, nor is it what was originally this second cosmic body. Thus we get a second cosmic body formed out of the first; the first was pure warmth, the second was of an air-nature.
Now man can live in warmth as soul. Warmth gives the soul sensitive feeling and does not destroy it. It destroys the body, however; if I were thrown into the fire my body would be destroyed but not my soul. (We will speak of this more exactly later, for naturally the question needs to be considered in detail.) For this reason the human being could already live as soul during the first, the Saturn, condition. But although man could live then, the animal could not, for in the case of the animal when the body is destroyed the soul element is injured too. Fire has an influence on the soul element of the animal. In the first condition, therefore, we have man already present but not the animal.
When the transformation had taken place to the Sun condition [see drawing], both human being and animal were there. That is the important fact. It is not true that the animals were there originally and that man developed out of them. Man was there originally and afterwards the animals evolved out of what could not become man. Naturally the human being was not going about on two feet when there was only warmth — obviously not. He lived in the warmth and was a floating being; he had only a condition of warmth. Then as that was metamorphosed into an air-warmth-body, the animals were formed and appeared beside man. Thus the animals are indeed related to man, but they developed only later in the course of world evolution.
Now what more happened? The warmth decreased, and as it gradually decreased, not only was air formed but also water. Thus we have a third cosmic body. [See drawing — yellow.] I have called it “Moon” because it was slightly similar to our present moon, although it was not our present moon. It was a watery, a thoroughly watery body. Air and warmth naturally remained, but now water appeared which had not been present in the second condition. After the appearance of water there could be man, who was already there, animals, and, pushing up out of the water, plants. Plants originally grew in water, not in earth. So we have man, animal, plant.
You see, plants seem to grow out of the earth, but if the earth contained no water, no plants would grow; they need water for their growth. There are also as you know, aquatic plants, and you can think of the original plants as being similar to these; the original plants swam in the water. The animals too you must picture as swimming animals and in the former, second condition, even as flying animals.
Something still actually remains of all that was there originally. During the Sun condition, when only man and animal were in existence, everything had to fly, and since the air has remained and still exists, those flying creatures have their descendants. Our present birds are the descendants of the original animals that developed during the Sun condition. However, at that time they were not as they are today. Those animal creatures consisted purely of air; they were airy clouds. Here, later [Moon condition], they had water in them. Today — let us look at a bird. Usually a bird is observed very thoughtlessly. If we are to picture the animals as they existed during the Sun condition, we must say that they consisted only of air; they were hovering air-clouds. When we look at a bird today, we should realize that it has hollow bones filled with air. It is very interesting to see that in the present bird. There is air everywhere in this bird, in the bones, everywhere! Think away whatever is not air and you get an air-being — the bird. If it did not have this air, it could not fly at all. It has hollow bones; within, it is an air-bird, reminding us of former conditions. The rest of the body was built around it in later times. The birds are really the descendants of the Sun condition.
Look at modern man: He can live in the air, but he can't fly; he is too heavy to fly. He has not formed hollow bones for himself like the bird, or else he too could fly. Then he would not just have shoulder blades, but his shoulder blades would stretch out into wings. The human being still has the rudiments of wings up there in his shoulder blades; if these were to grow out, he would be able to fly.
Thus man lives in the air surrounding him. But this air must contain vapor. Man cannot live in purely dry air; he needs fluids.
There is a condition, however, in which the human being cannot live in the air: that is the very earliest human state, the embryo. One must look at these things rightly. During the embryonic time the human germ or embryo obtains air and all that it needs from the body of the mother. It must be in something living.
You see, it is like this: If the human embryo is removed by operation from the body of the mother, it cannot yet live in the air. During the embryonic condition the human being needs to have live surroundings. At the time when man, animal, and plant existed, but as yet no stones or minerals as we have them today, everything was alive and man lived surrounded by what was alive just as now he lives as embryo in the mother's body. Naturally he grew bigger. Think of this: If we did not have to be born and live in the air and breathe on our own, then our span of life would end with our birth. As embryo we could all live only ten moon-months. As a matter of fact, there are such creatures that live only ten months; these do not come to the outer air but get air from within a living environment. So it was with man a long time ago. He certainly grew older, but he never came out of the living element. He lived in that state all the time. He did not advance to birth; he lived as embryo. At that time there were as yet no minerals, no rocks.
If the body of a human being is dissected today, the same carbonate of lime will be found in his bones as you find here in the Jura Mountains. There is now a mineral substance inside the body that was not present in the earlier condition. In the embryo too, particularly in the first months, there is no deposit of mineral; everything is still fluid, only slightly thickened. And so it was during this earlier condition; man was not yet bony, having, at most, cartilage. Of such a human being we are reminded today only by the human embryo. Why cannot the human embryo come immediately out of the mother's body? Because the world today is a different world. As long as the Old Moon lasted — I will now call it the Old Moon, as it is not the present moon but the former state of the earth — as long as the Old Moon period lasted, the whole earth was a womb, inwardly alive, a real womb. There was nothing yet of stone or mineral. It was all a gigantic womb, and we can say that our present earth came forth from this gigantic womb.
Earlier this immense womb did not exist at all. What was it then? Well, in fact, earlier there was something else in existence. Let us just consider what came before. You see, if a human being is to develop in the mother's body, if he is to be an embryo, he must first be conceived. The conception takes place. But does nothing precede conception? What precedes conception is the monthly period in the woman; that is what precedes. A very special process takes place in the female organism that is connected with the expulsion of blood. But that is not the only thing; that is only the physical aspect. Every time the blood is expelled something of a spiritual-soul nature is born at the same time, and this remains. It does not become physical, because no conception has taken place. The spiritual-soul element remains without becoming a physical human body. What for a human being must be there before conception was also there during the cosmic Sun condition! The whole Sun was a cosmic being that from time to time expelled something spiritual. So man and animal lived in the air-like condition, thrust out, expelled by this whole body. Between one condition (Sun) and the other (Moon), it came about that the human being became a physical being in water. Formerly he was a physical being only in air. During this Moon condition we have something similar to conception, but not yet anything similar to birth. What was the nature of this conception during the ancient Moon condition?
The Moon was there, an entirely female being, and confronting it was not a male being, but all that was still outside its cosmic body at that time. Outside it were many other cosmic bodies that exerted an influence. Now comes the drawing which I have already made here.
So this cosmic body was there and around it the other cosmic bodies, exerting their influence in the most varied ways. Seeds came in from outside and fructified the whole Moon-Earth. And if you could have lived at that time and set foot on this primeval cosmic body, you would not have said when you saw all sorts of drops coming in “It is raining,” as one says today. At that time you would have said, “Earth is being fructified.” There were seasons when the fructifying seeds came in from all directions, and other seasons when they matured and no more came in. Thus at that time there was a cosmic fructification. But the human being was not born, only fructified; he was only called forth by conception. The human being came out of the entire Earth-body, or Moon-body, as it was then. In the same way fructification came from the whole cosmic surroundings for animal and plant.
Now later through further cooling there came about a hardening of all that lived then as man, animal, and plant. There, in the Moon condition we still have to do with water, at most, a hardening through the cooling. Here on the earth the solid, the mineral appears. So now we have a fourth condition [see drawing]: this is our earth as we have it today, and it contains man, animal, plant, mineral.
Let us just look at what the bird, for instance, has become on the earth. During this time (Sun condition) the bird was still a sort of air-sack, it consisted of nothing but air, a mass of air floating along. Then during this time (Moon condition) it became watery, a thickened watery thing, and it hovered as a kind of cloud — only not like our clouds but already containing a form. What for us are only formless water structures were at that time forms. There was a skeleton form, but it was fluid. But now came the mineral element, and this was incorporated into what was only water structure. Carbonate of lime, phosphatic lime and so on went the length of the skeleton, forming solid bones. So at first we have the air-bird, then the water-bird, and at last the solid earth-bird.
This could not be the same in the case of man. Man could not simply incorporate into himself what only arose as mineral during his embryonic period. The bird could do this — and why? You see, the bird acquired its air form here (Sun condition); it then lived through the water condition. It is essential for it not to let the mineral come too close to it during its germinal state. If the mineral came to it too soon, then it would just become a mineral and harden. The bird while it is developing is still somewhat watery and fluid; the mineral, however, wants to approach. What does the bird do? Well, it pushes it off, it makes something around itself, it makes the eggshell around itself! That is the mineral element. The eggshell remains as long as the bird must protect itself inwardly from the mineral; that is, as long as it must stay fluid. The reason for this is that the bird originated only during the second condition of the earth. If it had been there during the first condition, it would now be much more sensitive to warmth than it actually is. Since it was not there at that time, it can now form the hard eggshell around itself.
Man was already present during the first condition of the earth, the warmth condition, and therefore he cannot now hold off the mineral while he is in the embryonic stage. He can't build an eggshell; he must be organized differently. He must take up the mineral element from the womb, and so we have mineral formation already in the embryo at the end of its development. Man must absorb some mineral from the womb; therefore, the womb must first possess the mineral that is to be absorbed. So in the case of man the mineral element is incorporated quite differently. The bird has air-filled bones; we human beings have marrow-filled bones, very different from the bones of the bird. Through the fact of our having this marrow a human mother is able to provide mineral substance to the embryo within her. But once the mineral element is provided, the human being is no longer able to live in the womb environment and must gradually be born. He must first have acquired mineral constituents. With the bird it is not a matter of being born, but of creeping out of the eggshell; man is born without an eggshell. Why? Because man originated earlier and therefore everything can be done through warmth and not through air.
From this you can understand the differences that still exist and that can be observed today. The difference between an “egg-animal” and such a being as man, and also the higher mammals, lies in the fact that man is far older than, for instance, the bird species, far older than the minerals. Therefore, when he is quite young, during the embryonic stage in the womb, he must be protected from the mineral nature and may only be given the prepared mineral that comes from the mother. In fact, the mineral element prepared in the mother's body must even for a certain time after birth still be given to him in the mother's milk! While the bird can be fed at once with external substances, man and the higher animals can only be nourished by what the mother's body provides.
What the human being has today in our present Earth condition from the mother's body he had during the previous cosmic condition from the air, from the environment. What he had around him during his whole life was of a milk nature. Our air today contains oxygen and nitrogen but relatively little carbon and hydrogen and particularly very, very little sulphur. They have gone. During the Moon condition it was different; in the surrounding air there were not only oxygen and nitrogen but also hydrogen, carbon, sulphur. That made a sort of milky pap around the Moon, a quite thin milk-pap in which life existed. Today man still lives in a thin milk-pap before he is born! For it is only after his birth that the milk goes into the breast; before birth it is in those parts of the female body where the human embryo is lying. That is an amazing thing, that processes in the mother's organism that belong to the uterus before birth afterwards go to the breast. And so the Moon condition is still preserved in man before he is born, and the actual Earth condition only comes at the moment of birth with the Moon-nature still present in the breast milk.
This is how things connected with the origin of the earth and mankind must be explained. If people do not press forward to a spiritual science, they simply cannot solve the mystery of why a bird slips out of an egg and can at once be nourished with external substances, while a human being cannot slip out of an egg and must come out of the womb to be nourished by mother's milk. Why is it? It is because the bird originated later and is thus an external being. Man originated earlier, and when he was undergoing the Moon-condition, he was not yet as hardened as the bird. Hence today too he is not yet so hardened; he must still be more protected, for he has within him much more of the original conditions.
Since people today on the whole can no longer think properly, they misunderstand what exists on earth as plant, animal, and man. Thus materialistic Darwinism arose, which believed that the animals were there first and that man simply developed out of the animals. It is true that in his external form man is related to the animals, but he existed earlier, and the animals really developed later after the world had gone through a transformation. And so we can say that the animals we see now present a later stage of an earlier condition when they were indeed more closely related to man. But we must never allow ourselves to imagine that out of the present animals a human being could arise. That is a thoroughly false idea.
Now let us look not at the bird species but at the fishes. The bird species developed for the air, the fish species for the water. Not until what we call the Moon condition were certain earlier air-like bird-beings transformed in such a way as to become fishlike — because of the water. To the bird-like beings were added the fish. One could say that the fish are birds that have become watery, birds received by the water. You can gather from this that the fish appeared later than the birds; they appeared when the watery element was there, that is, during the Old Moon period.
And now you will no longer be astonished that everything swimming about in a watery state during the Old Moon time looked fish-like. The birds looked fish-like in spite of flying in the air and being lighter. Everything was fish-like. Now this is interesting: if we look today at a human embryo on about the 21st or 22nd day after conception, what is its appearance? There it swims in a fluid element in the mother's body, and it looks really like a tiny fish! The human being actually had this form during the ancient Moon period and he has it still in the third week of pregnancy; he has preserved it.
You can say, then, that man worked himself out of this Old Moon form, and we can still see by the fish form he has in the embryo how he has worked himself out. When we observe the present world, everywhere we can see how formerly it all had life, just as we know of a corpse that it had life earlier. So today I have described to you the earlier condition of what we now have on earth as mineral. We look at a corpse and say that he can no longer move his legs, his hands, no longer open his mouth or his eyes — everything has become immobile; yet that leads us back to a human state when everything could be moved — legs, arms, hands — when the eyes could be opened. In just the same way we look around us at the corpse of the earth, the remains of a living body, in which man and animal still wander about, and we look back to the time when the entire earth was once alive.
But there is something more. I said that with conception the potentiality of the physical human being is there, and gradually the embryo develops. I also described what happens earlier, the processes in the female organism, what is pushed out in the monthly periods, and how a spiritual element is pushed out too. Now in this process there is always something of the nature of fever, even in a perfectly normal, healthy woman. This is because there is a warmth condition; it is the warmth condition that has been preserved from the ancient first condition that I have in the drawing called Saturn. This fever condition still endures.
One can say that the whole of our evolution proceeded from a kind of fever condition of our earth, which the cooling down finally brought to an end. Most people today are no longer feverish but thoroughly dry and matter-of-fact. Yet even now, when there is something not caused by outside warmth but appearing inwardly as warmth, giving us something of an inward life, now too we have a condition of fever.
So it is, gentlemen: One sees everywhere in the conditions of present mankind how they can be traced back to conditions of the past. Today I have told you how man, animal, plant, and mineral gradually evolved as the entire cosmic body with which all are connected grew more and more solid.
We will speak further of all this — today is Monday — on Wednesday at nine o'clock. 2This lecture was postponed to Thursday, July 3rd.