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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Rosicrucian Esotericism
GA 109

8. Stages in the Evolution of our Earth.Lemurian, Atlantean, Post-Atlantean Epochs

Budapest, June 10, 1909

The lecture yesterday covered the steps up to the Lemurian epoch in the evolution of our earth. During that epoch a great cosmic event took place, namely, the exit of the moon from the substance of the earth. The direct result of this was that the right tempo was introduced into the evolution possible for man. In respect of form and temperature the earth at that time was essentially different from what it is today; its temperature was so much higher that contemporary man could not have lived upon it. Gradually the earth densified and solid substances were formed. When in the lecture yesterday it was said that bodies “hardened,” this is not to be understood in the physical sense but as meaning in respect of strength and quality. Certain substances dissolved. The whole earth was in a seething-fluidic state and it solidified only be degrees. But it must not be thought that this means hard and dense in the modern physical sense; it relates only to strength and quality. These forces would have mummified human beings. Out of the seething-fluidic state of the earth, formations resembling islands emerged and the beings living on them were slightly similar to our present animals and plants. During the first half of the Lemurian epoch, man himself did not live actually on the earth but in the sphere above the earth, in a fine, rarefied corporeality; his constitution was much more spiritual. At the beginning of the Lemurian epoch man had not, as yet, his later bodily nature, nor did he take the more solid kind of nourishment. Indeed, even at the end of the Lemurian epoch you would not have found even the densest forms of man's body equipped with bones such as exist today. The substance of man's physical body at that time was still flexible, gelatinous, hardly distinguishable outwardly from the surrounding sub-stance. The souls who had descended to the earth too soon drew this kind of densest substance into their bodies, with the result that then there were living on the earth men whose constitutions were least spiritual, while the others were still living above the earth.

It was only now, during the Lemurian epoch, through the ejection of fine ashes and fiery-fluidic metallic masses, that the first foundation of the mineral kingdom was laid. These masses formed the beginning, as it were, of islands. This is a more pictorial way of expressing it but that is how the process of gradual densification presents itself to clairvoyant sight. Out of these masses there emerged what we may call a plant kingdom and only later on the animal kingdom. It would lead too far if I were to attempt to tell you in detail how the physical world densified. Everything really descended out of higher spheres, including the continents as they densified. But the being who is man today still tarried, as it were, in a sphere above the earth. Men lived within this more ethereal sphere and there developed their finer bodies. The human etheric and astral bodies there were not yet connected strongly with the physical body but were freer from it. With the solidification of the physical body, which now became progressively denser, however, the connection with the etheric and astral bodies became closer. Instead of hovering and floating above the earth, man became a being who now trod the earth itself.

At this time an important influence asserted itself upon man. If there had been no such influence, what would have happened to him? For long, long ages he would have remained a being without initiative, without inner independence, an automaton, propelled by the forces of higher spiritual beings. Forces from the spiritual beings streamed perpetually into his physical, etheric and astral bodies. Among these beings there were some who worked chiefly upon his astral body and had themselves remained backward in their own evolution; these were the luciferic beings. They drew man down to the physical plane more quickly than the good, normally evolved spiritual beings had done.

The luciferic beings were spirits who ought in reality to have completed their task on Old Moon. Had they asserted their influence upon men then, they would have been able to work only upon the astral body for that was the highest member of man's constitution on Old Moon. They were, however, incapable of this because they were retarded beings. Nor could they affect the ego, because on Old Moon they had not known of its existence. The luciferic beings had eventually evolved to the stage of being able to work upon man's astral body, but man himself had meantime progressed and the ego had been membered into him. The luciferic beings could not yet have worked upon the ego; higher beings were doing so, and also upon the astral body, but only through and by way of the ego. These higher beings would not have allowed themselves to work directly upon the astral body, for that was a task they had already accomplished during the Old Moon period. If the luciferic beings had failed to have any influence upon man, the higher beings alone would have worked upon his astral body by way of the ego and so have purified the astral body. Instead of this, however, during the Lemurian epoch the luciferic beings worked directly upon man's astral body from every side and consequently the astral body was exposed to all the influences that should have been worked out on Old Moon. As a result there were implanted into man urges, desires and passions that would not have been his lot if the higher beings alone had worked upon him. The gods would not have allowed these influences to have access to him. The luciferic influence had a twofold effect upon man. Firstly, a certain enthusiasm, a certain zeal could be kindled in him to do one thing or another; but this zeal was not guided by his ego, not influenced by the higher beings working in him. Secondly, it was made possible for him to secede from the higher beings, to do evil, but also to have freedom. Thus, initiative, enthusiasm and freedom for man were due to the luciferic beings but the possibility of doing evil also existed. The luciferic beings insinuated themselves into man's astral body. Fundamentally speaking, this is still the case today; it is they who on the one side make man free and on the other entice him to evil.

Owing to the fact that man's astral body was permeated by the luciferic beings, he was led prematurely down to the earth from the atmosphere above it. For this the luciferic beings are essentially to blame. They were the cause of the deterioration and premature densification of man's astral body; otherwise, he would still have remained for a long time in the atmosphere. This, in the Bible, is called Paradise.

Thus, the expulsion from Paradise was due to the influence of the gods. You should therefore picture the earth in its seething fluid condition and man being led by the luciferic beings too soon down to the earth on which continents were forming. At that time man's astral body still had a far greater influence upon his environment, greater magical powers than were his later on; there was as yet no such drastic separation between the laws of nature and the will of man. In this connection an evil man today would be unable to cause any special damage to nature. He would be incapable of this. In that early period it was different. Evil lusts in the soul of man had a visible, magical effect in nature; they attracted the forces of fire above and on the earth. Through his evil lusts and magic will, man set the forces of nature ablaze. Today this is no longer possible, but at that time fire flashed through the air when men were evil.

Through the wickedness of masses of human beings and the fact that man succumbed too completely to the influence of the luciferic beings and lent himself to evil, the forces of fire in Lemuria were kindled. Thus, Lemuria perished as the result of the raging fires and the wickedness of a large section of its population. The human beings who were saved went to the West, to a continent lying between the present Africa, Europe and America, namely, Atlantis. There the evolution of humanity continued for long, long ages. The number of human beings gradually increased and the souls who had gone to Jupiter, Mars, and so on, during the period of desolation, came down to this continent. The process lasted for a long time. It was thus that the concept of race developed in ancient Atlantis. In occultism it is said that there were human beings in Atlantis whose bodies were inhabited by souls who had previously been on Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and so on. They were called Mars men, Jupiter men, for example. The external forms of the bodies differed for this reason. During the whole first half of Atlantis the texture of the human body was much softer, much more flexible, and yielded to the forces of the soul. These soul forces were essentially more powerful than they are today, and they both shaped and overpowered the physical body. A man of ancient Atlantis would have been able to break a railroad track, let us say, with ease, not because his physical forces were strong, for his bony system had still not developed, but through his magical, psychic forces. A cannon ball, for example, could have been repulsed by this psychic force. The density of flesh developed only later. A similar phenomenon is still to be found today in certain lunatics who on account of the liberation of strong psychic forces — in that condition the physical body is not properly connected with the higher bodies — can lift and throw heavy objects.

Because in Atlantis man's physical body was still pliable, he could more easily adjust himself to processes in the life of soul; the physical stature could be made to decrease or increase in size. If, for example, a man in Atlantis was, let: us say, stupid or sensual, he fell into matter, as it were, and became a giant in stature. The more intelligent human beings developed a delicate constitution and were smaller in stature; those who were dull-witted were giants. Man's external form was far, far more strongly influenced by the forces of soul than is the case today when substance has become rigid. The bodies of men developed in accordance with the qualities of soul, and this accounted for the great differences in the races.

When myths and legends have described the dwarfs as being clever and the giants as dull-witted, we recognize once again the reflection of a profound, occult trend. When a soul came down again to the earth from Mars, the qualities with which it had been connected there continued for a long time to influence it and the body it inhabited. This fact explains the differences in races and racial characteristics.

If the evolution of humanity until the middle of the Atlantean epoch had proceeded without the influence of Lucifer, man would by then have developed a picture consciousness imbued with a high degree of clairvoyance. There would have been in his soul something that through its power would have revealed the external world to him in inner pictures; he would not have perceived objects outside through his eyes. As a result of the luciferic influence man had perceived the physical world at an early stage, but not rightly. He saw the external world through a veil, as it were. Evolution as provided for him by the divine-spiritual beings was that in place of the dull, clairvoyant consciousness with which his inner world was perceived in pictures, he would have seen the external world but in such a way that behind everything material, spirit would have been present. He would have seen the spirit behind the physical world. All of a sudden — but please do not take that literally, for the process was obviously lengthy — the external world would have appeared to man at a certain time; he would have awakened. The inner world would have suddenly vanished but the consciousness of the spirit whence that world originated would have remained. Man would have seen not only the plants, animals and so forth but simultaneously the spirit whence they had come forth. Because the luciferic beings drew man down to the earth too soon, the external world had the effect of hiding the world of spirit from him; physical matter became opaque for him. Otherwise, he would have seen through it to the primordial spiritual ground of the world. Because man had come down too soon into matter, it proved to be too dense for him and he could not penetrate it. But from the middle of the Atlantean epoch onward, other retarded spiritual beings were able to impregnate this matter, in consequence of which it was as if clouded, made turbid, and man was again no longer able to behold the spiritual. These were the ahrimanic or Mephistophelian beings. Mephistopheles — Ahriman is not the same being as Lucifer. Through untruth Zarathustra calls Ahriman the liar. He beclouds the purity of the spirit of man, conceals the spiritual from him. Ahriman comes after Lucifer and instils into man the illusion that matter is a reality in itself. So in his progress, during which the divine-spiritual beings wanted their influence to work upon him, man allowed himself to be subject to two other influences: those of Lucifer who assails man in his inner nature, in the astral body, endeavoring to confuse and mislead him, and Ahriman, who, working from outside, deludes man to a certain extent, causing the external world to appear to him as maya, as matter, We must speak of Lucifer as the spirit who is active within man. Ahriman, on the contrary, is the spirit who spreads matter like a veil over the spiritual and makes recognition of the spiritual world impossible. These two spirits hold man back in his development to spirituality. It was especially the ahrimanic influence that asserted itself in man and caused the Atlantean part of the earth to perish.

In Lemuria, with their magical forces, men had a strong effect upon nature. They could, for example, control fire. The Atlanteans were no longer capable of this. But with their will they could control the germinal forces in which deep secrets lie hidden — the forces of air and water. Fire was beyond their control. Let us be clear that when we look at a locomotive today, constructed by and controlled by man, this is something quite different. Today man understands how to make the forces contained in coal serve his purposes, to turn them into a propelling power. This process means that he controls the lifeless, mineral force in the coal. The Atlantean, however, controlled the actual life force contained in seeds. Think of the life force that causes the blades of grass to sprout from the earth. This life force was extracted from the seed by the Atlanteans and put to use. In their sheds where the Atlanteans kept their “air ships” they laid up enormous stocks of seeds, just as we today store coal. With the force accumulated from the seeds they propelled their vehicles. When the clairvoyant looks back to that epoch, he sees these vehicles near the earth in the air that was still dense to a certain extent; equipped with a kind of steerage apparatus, they rose up and moved. The Atlanteans controlled these forces. Now it is unthinkable to imagine that the forces of plants — soul forces, that is to say — can be applied by magical means without at the same time influencing the forces of air and water. When the will of the Atlantean turned to evil and used these forces for egotistic purposes, he simultaneously evoked the forces of water and of air, released them, and ancient Atlantis perished as the result. The continents came into existence through the cooperation of the elements and man. But now the ahrimanic influence was gradually able to become so strong that man could no longer see the spiritual. Behind physical matter he could see nothing except the mineral element, the inorganic, and therewith the magical powers vanished ever more completely from him.

In the Atlantean epoch man was able to control and master the life force in the plant kingdom. In the Lemurian epoch it lay within his power to control the seminal forces of animals, and indeed it actually came to the point of Lemurian man applying these seminal forces of animals to transform animal forms into human forms. Every such magical action performed by man with the seminal forces, causes a release of the forces of fire. When such will becomes evil, the worst forces of black magic are generated and evoked. Today the most evil forces on the earth are still released when black magicians mishandle forces that are, generally speaking, withheld from mankind. These forces are powerful and at the same time holy. They are forces that, in the wise hands of worthy guides, can be applied in the highest and purest service of humanity.

Man now gradually became incapable of moulding his body. Cartilage and bones, the hard constituents, were integrated into it and man's resemblance to his present stature constantly increased. It was in the Atlantean epoch that what has been described first took place and it is therefore comprehensible that ancient Atlantis cannot be found by modern researchers. Hopes cherished by learned men of still being able to find traces of human evolution in those olden times, will never be fulfilled, because man was then a being whose limbs still consisted of soft, flabby substance. Such a body cannot be preserved, just as after a hundred years no remnants of the soft-bodied mollusks are to he found. Remnants of animals from ancient periods can still be found because the animals had already hardened while man's constitution was still soft and pliable. The animals came down into matter too soon; they were not able to wait. Out of the earliest human figures who had become physical too soon the most stunted human figures have come into existence. The noblest human figures stayed above the earth the longest, and remained soft and pliable. They waited until they were able to avoid an epoch during which they would have been obliged to remain stationary at a certain stage of hardening, as in the case of the animals. Because they were not able to wait, the animals have remained at a stage of rigidity and hardening.

The evolution of the earth has now been described up to the time when the forces of water were unleashed and ancient Atlantis perished. The human beings who were saved from Atlantis made their way on the one side toward America, on the other, to the Europe, Asia and Africa of today. These great migrations continued for long ages.

We will now think once more of ancient Atlantean culture. In the earliest period man possessed strong magical powers. With these powers he controlled the seed forces, mastered the forces of nature and in a certain way was still able to see into the spiritual world. Clairvoyance then gradually faded. Men were destined to found the culture belonging to the earth; they were to descend to the earth in the real sense. Thus, at the end of Atlantis there were two kinds of human beings within the peoples and races. Firstly, at the height of Atlantean culture there were seers, clairvoyants and powerful magicians who worked by means of magical forces and were able to see into the spiritual world. Beside them were people who were preparing to be the founders of present humanity. They already had within them the rudiments of the faculties possessed by men today. They could emphatically no longer equal the achievements of the old Atlanteans but they were able to make preparation for intelligence, for the power of judgment. They possessed the elementary faculties of calculation, computation, analysis and so forth. They were the people who developed the rudiments of the intelligence of today and no longer made use of the magical forces applied. by the Atlantean magicians at the time when their application was already fraught with danger on account of the powerful ahrimanic influence. They were those “others,” the despised people, rather like the anthroposophists today who meet together in small groups, or like the first Christians in ancient Rome who gathered together in the catacombs.

Now in Atlantis there were also centers of culture and ritual — we will call them the Atlantean Oracles — where what is called the Atlantean wisdom was harbored and practiced. In accordance with the differences in human souls due to their having come down to the earth from different planets, there were necessarily different Oracles for men of different constitutions. There was a Mars Oracle, a Jupiter Oracle, a Venus Oracle, and so on. These Oracles were sanctuaries where the initiates, who were sages of a certain degree, guided and led the Mars race, the Jupiter race, and so on. All these Oracles, however, were in turn led by the still more powerful Sun Oracle. This was the leading center of the Mysteries whence the cultural instructions for the other Oracles proceeded. As well as this highest leadership, all Mars men were under that of the center where the initiate of the Mars Oracle resided, together with his pupils; all Mercury souls were led from the Mercury Oracle, all Jupiter souls from the Jupiter Oracle, and so on. All these Oracle centers, however, were subject to the authority of the great initiate of the Sun Oracle.

This great leader of the Sun Oracle, the greatest initiate of Atlantis, directed his attention above all to that section of human beings who differed from the ordinary population in ancient Atlantis. They were simple people who were looked down upon and who no longer possessed magical powers. But it was they who were gathered together by the great initiate because they had developed the new faculties, even if only in a primitive form. It was from them that understanding of the new age was to be expected. The great initiate gathered together this useful material for the future, and also those old initiates or magicians who had not persisted in clinging egotistically to the former practices. Our present age presents a similar picture and can be compared with the conditions prevailing in Atlantis at that time. Today, too, there are on the one side the influential figures in the prevailing forms of culture, people who in their own way are magicians, working only with what is inorganic; on the other side, there are the despised people who still today want to work for the future. At that time, in Atlantis, the representatives of culture, the old magicians, also looked down with disparagement upon the small number of those who had developed the new faculty, which was useless in ancient Atlantis. The great initiate of the Sun Oracle did not, however, despise these people; today, too, the proud bearers of our culture look down upon a small number of human beings, upon the anthroposophists who gather in small, insignificant meeting places and are said to engage in all kinds of foolish activities. Generally speaking, they are unprofessional laymen who claim to be inaugurating the future. These are the people who are developing and preparing in themselves a faculty that to the others seems useless, but because it has a foreboding of the future is able to create a connection again with the spiritual world. In Atlantis long ago it was a matter of finding the connection with the physical, material world; the task today is to discover the spiritual again. Just as at that time the old initiate gathered his host together locally, directing his call to the simple, despised people, so today again, under different — not local — conditions, a call goes forth from the great Masters of Wisdom who are allowing certain spiritual treasures of wisdom to flow into humanity. Those possessed of certain qualities respond to this call as did certain human beings long ages ago; they were individuals who had within them primitive talents for calculation, computation and so forth.

This wisdom is not imparted in order that theosophical dogmas shall be grasped by the intellect but that they shall be understood by the heart. A man is then strong enough to know why theosophy is there today. It is there to meet a great challenge of evolution, and he who knows this also finds the strength to conquer all obstacles, come what may. He proceeds along his path because he knows that what is intended to come to pass through theosophy must come to pass for the further progress of humanity on the path to the spirit.

The great initiate of the Sun Oracle led the small group of human beings and founded a kind of cultural center in Asia. He drew these individuals to him in order to make them capable of founding post-Atlantean culture. During the great migration, everything that had come into existence in Atlantis had been mingled, jumbled together. It follows that in the post-Atlantean epoch one should no longer speak of races but of civilizations, cultures.

We will now turn to consider the consecutive civilizations in the post-Atlantean epoch, the first of which is the ancient Indian. A remarkable mixture of peoples had been saved after the Atlantean catastrophe and had congregated in primeval India. The human beings who lived there still had the deepest, overwhelming yearning for the spiritual world, knowing that from it they had been born and that now they had lost it. Thither the great initiate of the Sun Oracle sent the seven Holy Rishis. With longing fraught with pain, the man of ancient India maintained that the world of the senses is untrue and that the spiritual world from which he has descended is the only true world. It was, therefore, easy for the Holy Rishis to teach what they had to say about the primeval wisdom, about the Mysteries, to those who still harbored a longing for the spiritual world. To the ancient Indians the material world was maya, the great illusion.

Already a different attitude of soul prevailed in the second post-Atlantean epoch of culture, the ancient Persian epoch. Western thinking and research in the physical world realize that this wonderful world, constructed as it is according to laws of perfect harmony is worthy to be penetrated by the spirit. The people of Zarathustra had a boding realization of this. Those who have knowledge of the people of ancient Persia will be able to distinguish clearly between them and the people of India. To the latter, everything around them was maya, illusion; the spiritual world alone was real and a worthy goal of aspiration; that world alone was permeated by the highest self. Such an attitude of soul could not master the physical world. This became possible for the first time with the culture inaugurated by Zarathustra, the great pupil of the mighty initiate of the Sun Oracle. He knew and taught that the world outside is not maya but the expression of divine-spiritual reality, that behind it lies what Ahriman had hidden from man. What thus lies behind the world of sense must be disclosed and Zarathustra's aim was to find the spirit in the material world. That was his mission. In Ormuzd and Ahriman light and darkness are pitted against each other.

In the third epoch, the Egyptian-Chaldean-Assyrian-Babylonian, man had already formed a close link with the physical world. Lifting his eyes to the stellar script in the heavens, the deeds and the wisdom of the gods were revealed to him and he tried to understand and fathom them. The wonderful stellar wisdom of the Chaldean priesthood is a memorial of these strivings.

The fourth culture, that of Greece and Rome, leads man right down to the physical plane. He has now come to love it so dearly that he has quite forgotten his origin. He no longer understands the spiritual world. This is clearly indicated in the saying of the Greek hero, Achilles: “Better to be a beggar in the upper world than a king in the realm of the Shades.” The wonderful sculpture of Greece and the citizenship of Rome are the hallmarks of this fourth epoch of culture. The fifth cultural epoch is our own. Materialism and the department store give it a certain characteristic stamp.

The purpose of all these cultures is, after all, that the physical plane shall be gradually mastered by man. Two fundamental streams come to expression in the cultures that have existed until today. The views and trends of feeling of the Eastern and Western worlds confront each other at the present time. The Eastern world calls the physical plane maya or illusion and does not want to be entangled with it either in thoughts, acts or feelings. The basic aim of the Western conception of the world, however, is to penetrate into this material world, come to grips with it. Outwardly, therefore, things may come to a confrontation but each world has its own complete justification. Let the Western world concern itself with external culture and by this means develop the forces of the soul, and let the Eastern take its path. At the summit they come together.

Thus we think of the Indian who leads an inner, spiritual life, withdrawn from the outer, material world, and the Persian who still sees something inimical in matter but nevertheless infuses spirit into it. The Egyptian contemplates the spirit and its laws; the Chaldean sees in the movements of the stars the script of the gods in space and reveres the stellar wisdom as the expression. of divine-spiritual beings. We see the Greek who knew how to imprint in matter itself the ideal of beauty and perfection of what nature has created; the Greek personifies the epoch when we can marvel at the marriage between spirit and matter in the physical masterpieces of art. Reference must be made here to a deep, occult background. Think of the Greek temple in its majestic purity and beauty; it is the actual dwelling place of the god. The essential difference between these works of architecture and sculpture and those of other cultural epochs is that the Greek temple in its pure form is so supreme in the perfection of its lines, even from the architectonic, artistic standpoint, that nothing can equal it. if the soul steeps itself in these lines — in the ruins of the temple at this is still to be seen — if it contemplates a Doric or an Ionian temple and has something of what is called space consciousness, it perceives how these lines are actually integrated in space. You yourselves are aware that certain currents, certain streams, are present in space. The Greek temple follows the inevitable courses of these streams and presents them in physical reality. The Greek creates in space what he has actually found there. The essential secret of the Greek temple is the presence within it of the god himself. Whereas the congregation of the faithful is an integral part of the Gothic cathedral, the Greek temple is a whole in itself. The Gothic cathedral, with its pointed arches and windows, is only conceivable together with its congregation, whose hands, folded in devotion, mirror its forms and together with it constitute a whole. Spirituality was actually present in the Greek temple; it afforded the spiritual being an opportunity to descend and find a dwelling place.

But during this epoch, which has so well understood how to adorn the earth with masterpieces of art, men increasingly lost connection with the spiritual world. The physical world was full of brightness and light for a man but when he passed through death during the epoch of Greco-Latin culture, the spiritual world was barren, cold and dark for him. During the post-Atlantean era, man had conquered the physical world but in the spiritual world sadness and gloom were his lot. Even the initiates, who both here and in yonder world are the teachers of mankind, could bring no consolation. When they told those who were living between death and a new birth about happenings in the physical world, those human souls became even more sorrowful; with every fiber of their beings they clung to the material world that was now taken from them. Here, too, a change took place through the event of Golgotha and the appearance of Christ Jesus on the earth. After His death on the Cross He descended into the Underworld — this is called the journey to Hell — and to those who were no longer living in a physical body He proclaimed that in very truth life had been victorious over death. It was thereby again made possible for souls to rise into the spiritual world.