The Reflection of Cosmic Events in the Religious Views of Men.
3 September 1908, Leipzig
Yesterday we looked at certain connections in the spiritual relationships of the so-called post-Atlantean time. We saw how the first cultural epoch of this period will repeat itself in the last, the seventh; how the Persian culture will repeat itself in the sixth; and how the Egyptian culture, which will occupy us during the next few days, repeats itself in our own lives and destinies in the fifth period. Of the fourth culture, the Greco-Latin, we were able to say that it occupies an exceptional position in that it experiences no repetition. Thus we could point in a sketchy way to the mysterious connections in the cultures of the post-Atlantean time, which follows after the time of the Atlantis that perished through powerful water-catastrophes. This age that follows Atlantis will perish in turn. At the end of our fifth great epoch, the post-Atlantean, there will be catastrophes that will work in a way similar to those at the close of the Atlantean epoch. Through the War of All Against All, the seventh culture of the fifth epoch will find its conclusion. These are interesting connections that are indicated in certain repetitions, and when we follow them more closely they will throw light into the depths of our soul life.
In order to lay a proper foundation, we must today allow still other repetitions to pass before our mind's eye. We will let our glance rove far into the evolution of our earth, and we will see that these wide horizons must have an intimate interest for us.
But let us begin with an admonition, a warning against a mechanical approach to the repetitions. When in the realm of occultism we speak of such repetitions, saying that the first cultural epoch repeats itself in the seventh, the third in the fifth, etc., it is easy to let a certain gift for combinations get the upper hand, so that we try to apply such schemes or diagrams in other contexts also. It is easy to believe that we can do this, and many books on theosophy actually contain a good deal of rubbish of this sort. Hence there must be a strong warning that such combinations are not controlling, but only perception, spiritual vision, without which we go astray. Such combinations must be warned against. What we can read in the spiritual world may be understood, but not discovered, through logic. It can be discovered only through experience.
If we wish to understand the cultural epochs more clearly, we must achieve a general view of the evolution of the earth as it presents itself to the seer who can direct his spiritual gaze to the events of the most remote past. If we look far back into the evolution of the earth, we can say that our earth has not always appeared as it does today. It did not have the firm mineral base of today; the mineral kingdom was not as it is today; the earth did not bear the same plants and animals, and men were not in such a fleshly body as they have today; men had no bony system. All that was formed later. The farther we look back, the nearer we come to a condition which, if we could have observed it from cosmic distances, we would have seen as a mist, as a fine etheric cloud. This mist was much larger than our present earth, for it extended as far as the outermost planets of our solar system and even farther. It included a far-reaching nebular mass, wherein was contained all that went into the formation of the earth, and also of the planets and even of the sun.
If we could have examined this mass of mist closely, if an observer could have approached it, it would have seemed to be composed entirely of fine etheric points. When we see a swarm of gnats from a distance, it looks to us like a single cloud; close-up, however, we see the single insects. Thus, in the most remote past, the mass of our earth would have appeared, although then it was not material in our sense but was condensed only to an etheric condition. This earth-formation consisted of single ether-points, but something special was connected with these ether-points. Had the human eye been able to see these points, it would not have seen what the clairvoyant would have seen or what he actually sees now when he looks back. Let us make this clear by a comparison. Take the seed of a wild rose, a fully developed seed. What does one see who observes this? He sees a body that is very small, and if he did not know how a rose seed looked he would never imagine that a rose could grow from it. He would never derive this from the mere form of the seed. But a person who was endowed with a certain clairvoyant capacity would experience the following. The seed would gradually disappear from his sight, but to his clairvoyant eye would appear a flower-like form growing spiritually out of the seed. It would stand before his clairvoyant view, a real form, but one that could be seen only in the spirit. This form is the archetype of what later grows out of the seed. We would err if we believed that this form was exactly like the plant that grows from the seed. It is not at all like it. It is a wonderful light-form, containing streams and complicated formations. One could say that what later grows out of the seed is only a shadow of this wonderful spiritual light-form beheld by the clairvoyant.
Holding fast to this picture of how the clairvoyant sees the archetype of the plant, let us now return to the primeval earth and the single etheric points. If now, as in the previous example, the clairvoyant contemplated such an etheric point in the primeval substance, there would arise for him from the point (as from the seed in the previous example) a light-form, a beautiful form, which in reality is not there but rests slumbering in the point. What is this form that the seer perceives, looking back at the primal earth atom? What is it that arises? It is a form that is different from physical man, as different as is the archetype from the physical plant. It is the archetype of the present human form. At that time the human form slumbered spiritually in the etheric point, and the whole earth-evolution was necessary in order that what rested there might develop into present-day man. Many, many things were necessary for this, just as much is also necessary for the seed. This seed must be sunk in the earth, and the sun must send its warming rays, before it can develop itself into a plant. We will gradually understand how these points became men if we make clear to ourselves all that has happened in the meanwhile.
In the primeval past all the planets were connected with our earth. However, we will first consider the sun, moon, and earth because they are of special interest to us. At that time our sun, our moon, and our earth were not separate, but were all together. If we could stir these three bodies together like a broth in a great world-kettle, and if we thought of this as one cosmic body, we would have what the earth in its original condition was sun plus earth plus moon. Naturally, man could live there only in a spiritual condition. He could live only in this condition because what is in the present sun was then united with the earth. For a long, long time the cosmic body contained our earth, sun, and moon within itself, as well as all the beings and forces connected with them. In those times man was still only present spiritually in the primal human atom. This changed only in a time when something important occurred in world-evolution, when the sun split off and became a separate body, leaving earth and moon behind. After this, what was formerly a unity appears as a duality, as two cosmic bodies, the sun and the earth-plus-moon. Why did this occur?
All that happens has, naturally, a deep meaning, and we understand this when, looking backward, we find that there dwelt on earth at that time not only men but also other beings of a spiritual nature who were connected with them. These were not perceptible to the physical eye but were nevertheless present, as truly present as men and the other physical beings. Thus, for example, there are connected with our earth, living in its environs, beings whom Christian esotericism calls angels, Angeloi. We can best conceive these beings if we reflect that they stand at the stage at which man will be when the earth completes its evolution. Today these beings are already as far along as man will be at the end of his evolution on earth. A still higher stage is occupied by the archangels, Archangeloi, or Spirits of Fire, beings whom we can perceive when we direct our glance to what concerns entire peoples. Such concerns are guided by the beings called archangels or Archangeloi. A still higher type of being is called the Primal Beginnings or Archai or Spirits of Personality. We find these when we look at whole epochs of time and at many peoples, with all their connections and contrasts, contemplating what is usually called the Zeitgeist or Spirit of the Time. When we examine our own time, for example, we find that it is guided by higher beings called Archai or Primal Beginnings. Then there are still higher beings called, in Christian esotericism, Powers or Exusiai or Spirits of Form. Thus there are innumerable beings connected with our earth who are related to man in a sort of ladder of successive stages.
If we begin with the mineral and rise from the mineral to the plant, from the plant to the animal, and then to man, man is the highest physical being, but the others are also there; they are among us and permeate us. In the beginning of things, when the earth emerged from the womb of eternity as a sort of primeval mist, all these beings were bound up with the earth, and the clairvoyant would have seen how other beings pervade this picture at the same time as the human form. These were the beings named above, and beings of still higher types such as the Virtues, Dominions, Thrones, Cherubim, and finally the Seraphim. All of these beings were intimately connected with that powerful etheric dust, but they are at various stages of development. There are those whose sublimity man cannot fathom, but others are closer to him.
Since these beings were at different stages, they could not go through their evolution in the same way as man. A dwelling place had to be created for them. Among these high beings there were some who would have been greatly handicapped had they remained bound to lower beings. Therefore they split off. They took the finest substances out of the mist and built their dwelling in the sun. They created their heaven there, and there they found the proper tempo for their evolution. Had they remained in the inferior substances that they left behind in the earth, they would not have been able to continue their evolution. This would have hindered their development like a lead weight. This shows how material occurrences, such as the split in the cosmic substance, do not proceed from merely physical causes but rather from the forces of beings who need a site for their development. It happens because they must build their cosmic house. We must emphasize that spiritual causes lie at the foundation.
Man remained behind on the earth-plus-moon, and with him higher beings of the lowest hierarchy, such as angels and archangels, as well as beings who stood lower than man. But a single mighty being, who was already ripe enough to migrate to the sun, sacrificed himself and stayed with earth-plus-moon. This was the being who was later named Yahweh or Jehovah. He left the sun and became the leader of affairs on earth-plus-moon. Thus we have two dwelling-places: the sun and earth-plus-moon. On the sun were the most exalted beings, under the leadership of an especially high and sublime being whom the Gnostics attempted to conceive under the name Pleroma. We must picture this being as the regent of the sun. Yahweh is the leader of earth-plus-moon. We must make it especially clear that the noblest loftiest spirits went out with the sun, leaving the earth behind with the moon. The moon was not yet split off; it was still within the earth.
How should one conceive this cosmic event of the separation of the sun from the earth? Above all, one must feel the sun and its inhabitants to be the most august, pure, and sublime element that was formerly connected with the earth, whereas earth-plus-moon was the lower element. At that time its condition was still lower than that of our present earth. The latter stands higher because there came a later period during which the earth unburdened itself of the moon and its grosser substances, in the presence of which man could not have developed further. The earth had to expel the moon.
Just before this, however, was the darkest and most dreadful time for our earth. Everything with a noble evolutionary disposition came under the control of bad forces, so that man could progress further only by eliminating the worst conditions of existence along with the moon.
We must realize that a sublime light-principle, that of the sun, was opposed to the principle of darkness, that of the moon. Had one clairvoyantly observed the sun, which had already withdrawn, one would have seen the beings who wished to inhabit it, but also something else would have been perceived. What had withdrawn itself as the sun would have shown itself not only as a cluster of spiritual beings, nor would it have appeared as something etheric, for that belongs to a coarser realm; it would have appeared as something astral, as a mighty light-aura. What one would have sensed as a light-principle, one would have seen as a shining aura in cosmic space. The earth, through allowing this light to go forth, would suddenly have appeared densified, though not yet coming to a firm mineral consistency. A good and an evil, a bright and a dark principle, stood opposed to each other at that time.
Now let us see how the earth looked before it expelled the moon. It would be entirely wrong to think of it as resembling our present earth. The core of the earth was then a fiery seething mass. This core would have appeared as a nucleus of fire surrounded by powerful water-forces, although these would not have been like our water of today, for they contained the metals in fluid form. In the middle of all this was man, but in entirely different form.
Thus the earth appeared when it expelled the moon. Air was not to be found on the earth; it simply was not there. The beings then existing needed no air; they had an entirely different breathing system. Man had become a sort of fish-amphibian, but he consisted of soft fluid material. What he sucked into himself was not air but what was contained in the water. This is approximately the way the earth looked at that time. We must see that the earth at that time was in a lower condition than at present. It had to be so. Otherwise man could never have been able to find the right tempo and the means for his evolution, if the sun and moon had not separated themselves from the earth. Had the sun remained in the earth, everything would have gone too fast; whereas everything would have gone too slowly with the forces that now work on the moon. As the moon withdrew from the earth amid tremendous catastrophes, there prepared itself slowly what we may call the separation of an air-sheath from the water-element. Air was then entirely different from the air of today, for all kinds of vapors were still contained in it. But the being that was then gradually preparing itself was a sort of sketch of the man of today. We will describe all this more fully later.
We have learned to know man in three relationships. First, as he lived in earth-plus-sun-plus-moon with all the higher beings in a single cosmic body. Here he presented himself to the clairvoyant eye in the way described above. Next we see him under unfavorable conditions on earth-plus-moon. Had he remained in this condition, he would have become a malicious and savage being. When the sun had separated itself, there was the contrast of the sun on one side and moon-plus-earth on the other side. The sun, in all its streaming glory, glittered as a great sun-aura in space. On the other side remained earth-plus-moon with all the sinister forces that drag down the nobler elements in man. A twofoldness arises, which is followed by a threefoldness. The sun remains as it is, but the earth separates itself from the moon. The grosser substances withdraw and man remains behind upon the earth.
Looking at the third period, man feels the forces as a threefold principle. He asks: Whence come these forces? In the first period man was still connected with all the high forces of the sun. The forces that developed in the second period then went out with the moon. Man felt this as a redemption, but he had a memory of the first period in which he was still united with the sun-beings. He learned to know what longing was; he felt himself to be a cast-off son. With the forces that had gone out with sun and moon he could feel himself as a son of the sun and of the moon.
So, our earth evolved from a unity to a duality to a trinity: sun, earth, and moon.
The time when the moon split away, when man first received the possibility of developing himself, is designated as the Lemurian epoch. After great fire-catastrophes had terminated this Lemurian epoch, our earth gradually entered a condition that could produce the relationships prevailing in ancient Atlantis. The first beginnings of land emerged from the water-masses. This was long after the moon broke away, yet it was only because of that breaking-away that the earth was able to evolve as it did.
In Atlantis man was entirely different from today, but he had reached the point where he could move about within the air-sheath as a soft, swimming, floating mass. Only gradually did he develop a bony system. About the middle of Atlantis he had progressed so far as somewhat to resemble our present form.
But in Atlantis man had a clairvoyant consciousness. Our present consciousness developed only in much later times, and if we wish to understand the man of that time we must bear this clairvoyant consciousness in mind. We can understand this best through a comparison with the consciousness of today. Today man perceives the world from morning to evening by means of his senses. Through his sense-activity he continually receives impressions of sight, hearing, etc. But at night this sense-world sinks into an ocean of unconsciousness. For the occultist, this is really not so much a lack of consciousness as a lower grade of consciousness.
At this point we must make it clear that today man has a double consciousness, a bright day-consciousness and a sleep or dream consciousness. This was not at all the case in the first Atlantean times. Let us examine the alternation between waking and sleeping in those early times. During a certain period man dipped down into his physical body, but he did not perceive objects in the same sharp outlines as today. If we picture ourselves walking through a dense fog when the street lamps seem surrounded by a light-aura, we will have a rough idea of the Atlantean's object-consciousness. For the man of that time, everything was surrounded by such a fog; everything was as though enveloped in mist. That was the look of things by day. By night things looked entirely different, although still not the same as today. When the Atlantean went out of his body, he did not sink into unconsciousness but found himself in a world of divine spiritual beings, ego-beings, whom he perceived around him as his companions. As truly as man today does not see these beings at night, so truly did he in those times plunge into an ocean of spirituality, in which he actually perceived the divine beings. By day he was the companion of the lower kingdoms; by night he was the companion of the higher beings. Man lived in a spiritual consciousness, though this was dim; and, though he had no self-consciousness, he dwelt among these divine spiritual beings.
Now let us recapitulate the four epochs in the evolution of our earth. First, let us bring to mind the epoch in which sun and moon were still united with the earth. We must say that the beings of this earth are pure ideal beings, while man is present only as an etheric body, visible only to spiritual eyes. Then we come to the second epoch. We see the sun as a separate body, visible as an aura, and moon-plus-earth as a world of evil. Then we come to a third epoch, where the moon separates itself and on earth there work the forces that are the result of this threeness. Then we come to a fourth epoch. Here man is already a being in the physical world, which seems misty to him, and in sleep he is still the companion of divine beings. This is the epoch that closes with huge water-catastrophes, the time of Atlantis.
Now let us go one step further, to the man of the post-Atlantean time. As stated earlier, he has evolved through many thousands of years. We see him pass through the cultural epochs of the post-Atlantean time; the ancient Indian, the ancient Persian, the Egypto-Chaldean-Babylonian, the Greco-Latin culture, and our fifth culture. What, above all things, had man lost? He had lost something that we can conceive when we bear the description of Atlantis in mind.
Let us try to imagine the sleep-condition of the Atlantean. Man was then still the companion of the gods; he actually perceived a world of the spirit. This he had lost after the Atlantean catastrophe. The darkness of night surrounded him. In recompense there came a brightening of the day-consciousness and the development of the ego. All this man had achieved, but the old gods had vanished from his sight; they were now only memories. In fact, during the first post-Atlantean time all that his soul had experienced was merely a memory, a memory of his earlier inter-course with these divine beings.
We know that souls endure, that they reincarnate. Just as in ancient Atlantean times our souls were already present, were already living in bodies, so were they also present at the separation of moon and sun from the earth, and also in the earliest times of all. Man existed in the etheric dust or points, and the five cultural periods of the post-Atlantean time, in their views of the world, in their religions, are nothing else than memories of the ancient epochs of the earth.
The first period, the primeval Indian, developed a religion that
seems like an inner lighting-up, an inner repetition, in ideas and
feelings, of the very first period, when sun and moon were still bound
up with the earth, when the lofty beings of the sun still dwelt on
earth. We may imagine that this had to awaken a sublime view. The spirit
who, in the first condition of the earth, in the primeval mist,
connected himself with all angels, archangels, high gods, and spiritual
beings, was for Indian consciousness summed up as a single high
individuality under the name of Brahm or Brahma. 1It may occur to the reader
that India, even in ancient times, was notable for the multiplicity of
its gods rather than for their unity. In this connection the following
passage from the Upanishads may be illuminating:
Then Vidagda Sakayla questioned him: How many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?
He answered: As many as are mentioned in the Hymn to All the Gods, namely three hundred and three, and three thousand and three.
Yes, but just how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?
Yes, but just how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?
Yes, but just how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?
Yes, but just how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?
One and a half.
Yes, but just how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?
(Brih. Upan., ii, 2, iv, 4.) This first post-Atlantean culture recapitulated in the spirit what had happened earlier. It is a repetition of the first epoch of the earth, in its inner aspect.
Now let us look at the second cultural period. In the principles of light and darkness we have the religious consciousness of the primeval Persian period. The great initiate saw an opposition between two beings, one of which was personified in the sun and the other in the moon. Ahura Mazdao or Ormuzd, the Light-aura, is the being whom the Persians venerated as the highest god. Ahriman is the evil spirit, the representative of all the beings who belonged to earth-plus-moon. The religion of the Persians is a remembrance of the second epoch of the earth.
In the third cultural epoch, man had to say to himself, In me are the forces of the sun and of the moon; I am a son of the sun and a son of the moon. All the forces of the sun and of the moon appear as my father and my mother. Thus we have unity in the primeval past as the attitude of the Indian; while the duality that appeared with the separation of the sun is reflected in the religion of the Persians; and in the religious views of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, Assyrians, and Babylonians we find the trinity that appeared in the third epoch, after the separation of sun and moon. Trinity appears in all the religions of the third period, and in Egypt it is exemplified in Osiris, Isis, and Horus.
But what man had experienced in his consciousness in the fourth earth-epoch, the Atlantean, as a companion of the gods, emerges as a memory in the Greco-Latin period. The gods of the Greeks are nothing other than memories of the gods whose companion man was in Atlantis, the gods whom he saw clairvoyantly in etheric forms when he had risen out of his physical body at night. As truly as man today sees outer objects, so truly at that time did he see Zeus, Athena, etc. For him these were real figures. What the Atlantean felt and experienced in his clairvoyant condition reappeared, for the man of the fourth post-Atlantean period, in the pantheon. As the Egyptian time was a memory of the trinity that prevailed in the Lemurian epoch, the experience of Atlantis remained as a memory in the Hellenic hierarchy of gods. In Greece and elsewhere in Europe these were the same gods whom the Atlantean had seen, but under other names. These names were not invented; they are names for the same forms that walked beside man in the Atlantean time when he went out of his physical body.
So we see how the epochs of cosmic events find their symbolical expression in the religious views of the different post-Atlantean cultural periods. What took place during sleep in the Atlantean time lives again in the fourth period.
We are in the fifth post-Atlantean period. What can we remember? In the first period the ancient Indians could conceive the first earth-epoch; in the second period the Persians had the principles of good and evil; the ancient Egyptians could picture the third epoch in its trinity. The period of the Greeks, the old Germans, the Romans, had its Olympus. It remembered the godlike figures of Atlantis. Then came the modern time, the fifth period. What can it remember?
It can remember nothing. This is the reason why in this period, godlessness has been able to make headway in many respects. This is why the fifth period is driven to look toward the future rather than the past. It must look toward the future, when all the gods must arise again. This reunion with the gods was prepared in the time of the bursting-in of the Christ-force, which worked so powerfully that it could again endow man with a godly consciousness. The god-pictures of the fifth period cannot be memories. Only if man looks forward will life again become spiritual. In the fifth post-Atlantean period, consciousness must become apocalyptic.
Yesterday we examined the relations of the single cultures of the Post-Atlantean time. Today we have seen how cosmic events are reflected in the religious views of these cultures.
Our fifth period stands at a central point in the world, hence it must look forward. The Christ must for the first time be fully grasped in this period, for our souls are deeply interwoven in mysterious connections. We shall see how the repetition of the Egyptian time in our fifth period gives us a point of departure, and how we can actually pass over into the future.