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Cosmic Memory

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Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.

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Cosmic Memory

On-line since: 31st March, 2008

The Life of Earth

IN IN THE PRECEDING CHAPTERS has been shown how the components were successively formed which make up the so-called “lower nature of man” — the physical body, the ether body and the astral body. It has also been described how, with the appearance of a new body, the old ones must always be transformed so that they can become carriers and instruments of the one formed later. An advance of human consciousness is also associated with this progress. As long as the lower man has only a physical body, he possess merely an utterly dull consciousness, which is not equivalent even to that of dreamless sleep of the present, although for man of today this latter state of consciousness is in fact an “unconscious” one. In the time when the ether body appears, man reaches the consciousness which is his today in dreamless sleep. With the formation of the astral body a dim image consciousness makes its appearance, similar to, but not identical with the one man at present ascribes to himself while he is dreaming. The fourth, the current condition of consciousness of earth man, will now be described.

This present condition of consciousness develops in the fourth great universal era, that of earth which follows the preceding Saturn, Sun, and Moon eras.

On Saturn the physical body of man was developed in several stages. At that time it could not have been the carrier of an ether body. And the latter was added only during the course of the Sun. Simultaneously, the physical body was so transformed in the successive Sun cycles that it could become the carrier of this ether body, or in other words, that the ether body could work in the physical body. During the Moon development the astral body was added, and again the physical body and the ether body were transformed in such a way that they could provide suitable carriers and instruments for the then appearing astral body. Thus, on the Moon, man is a being composed of physical body, ether body, and astral body. Through the ether body he is enabled to feel joy and pain; through the astral body he is a being with emotions, rage, hate, love and so forth.

As has been shown, higher spirits actively work on the different members of his being. On the Moon the ether body received the capacity for joy and pain through the Spirits of Twilight; the emotions were implanted in the astral body by the Fire Spirits.

At the same time, something else was taking place during the three great cycles on Saturn, Sun, and Moon. During the last Saturn cycle the spirit man (Atma) was formed with the help of the Spirits of Will (Thrones). During the penultimate Sun cycle, the life-spirit (Buddhi) was joined to it with the assistance of the Cherubim. During the third from the last Moon cycle, the spirit-self (Manas) united with the two others through the help of the Seraphim. Thus actually two origins of man were formed during these three great cycles: a lower man, consisting of physical body, ether body, and astral body, and a higher man, consisting of spirit man (Atma), life-spirit (Buddhi), and spirit-self (Manas). The lower and the higher nature of man followed separate paths at first.

The earth development serves to bring the two separate origins of man together.

But first, after the seventh small cycle, all of Moon existence enters a kind of sleeping state (Pralaya). Thereby everything becomes mixed together, so to speak, in a homogeneous mass. The Sun and the Moon too, which were separate in the last great cycle, again become fused during the last Moon cycles.

When everything again emerges from the sleeping state there must first be repeated in their essentials the Saturn condition during a first small cycle, the Sun condition during a second, and the Moon cycle during a third. During this third cycle the beings on the Moon, which has again been split off from the Sun, resume approximately the same forms of existence which they already had on the Moon. There the lower man is a being intermediate between man of today and an animal; the plants stand midway between the animal and plant natures of today, and the minerals only half bear their lifeless character of today, while for the rest they are still half plants.

During the second half of this third cycle something else is already in preparation. The minerals harden, the plants gradually lose the animal character of their sensibility, and out of the uniform species of animal man there develop two classes. One of these remains on the level of animality, while the other is subjected to a division of the astral body into two parts. The astral body splits into a lower part, which continues to be the carrier of the emotions, and a higher part, which attains to a certain independence, so that it can exercise a kind of mastery over the lower members, over the physical body, the ether body, and the lower astral body. Now the Spirits of Personality seize upon this higher astral body and implant in it just that independence we have mentioned, and therewith also selfishness. Only in the lower human astral body do the Fire Spirits now accomplish their work, while in the ether body the Spirits of Twilight are active, and in the physical body that power entity begins its work which one can describe as the real ancestor of man. It is the same power entity which formed the spirit man (Atma) with the help of the Thrones on Saturn, the life-spirit (Buddhi) with the assistance of the Cherubim on the Sun, and the spirit-self (Manas) together with the Seraphim on the Moon.

But now this changes. Thrones, Cherubim, and Seraphim ascend to higher spheres, and the higher man now receives the assistance of the Spirits of Wisdom, of Motion, and of Form. These are now united with spirit-self, life-spirit, and spirit-man (with Manas-Buddhi-Atma). With the assistance of these entities the human power being characterized above develops its physical body during the second half of the third earth cycle. It is the Spirits of Form which act here in the most significant way. They already form the human physical body so that it becomes a kind of precursor of the later human body of the fourth cycle (the present one, or the fourth round)

In the astral body of the animal beings which have been left behind, it is exclusively the Fire Spirits which remain active, while in the ether body of the plants it is the Spirits of Twilight. 0n the other hand, the Spirits of Form participate in the transformation of the mineral realm. They make the latter hard, that is, implant rigid and fixed forms in it.

One must not imagine, however, that the sphere of activity of the spirits we have mentioned was confined only to what has been characterized. Always it is only the Main directions of their activities which are meant, in a subordinate way all the spirit beings participate everywhere. Thus at the time indicated, the Spirits of Form also have certain functions to perform in the physical plant and animal bodies, and so forth.

After all this has taken place, around the end of the third earth cycle all the entities — including Sun and Moon — again become fused and then pass through a shorter stage of sleep (a small Pralaya). At that time everything is again a uniform mass (a chaos), and at the end of this stage the fourth earth cycle begins in which we are at present.

At first, everything which already previously had had a being in the mineral, plant, animal, and human realms, begins to separate out of the uniform mass in germinal form. First there can re-emerge as independent germs only those human ancestors on whose higher astral bodies the Spirits of Personality have worked in the preceding small cycle. All other beings of the mineral, plant, and animal realm do not yet lead an independent existence here. At this stage everything is still in that high spiritual condition which is called the “formless” or Arupa condition. At the present stage of development, only the highest human thoughts — for example, mathematical and moral ideals — are woven of that substance which was proper to all beings at the stage we are describing. That which is lower than these human ancestors can only appear as an activity in a higher being. The animals exist only as states of consciousness of the Spirits of Fire, the plants as states of consciousness of the Spirits of Twilight. The minerals have a double existence in thought. First they exist as thought germs in the human ancestors mentioned above, then as thoughts in the consciousness of the Spirits of Form. The “higher man” (spirit-man, life-spirit, spirit-self also exists in the consciousness of the Spirits of Form.

By degrees a densification of everything now occurs. But at the next stage, the density as yet does not exceed the density of thoughts. At this stage, however, the animal beings which originated in the preceding cycle, can emerge. They separate out of the consciousness of the Fire Spirits and become independent thought beings. This stage is called that of the “formed” or Rupa condition. Man advances in it insofar as his previously formless, independent thought body is clothed by the Spirits of Form in a body of coarser, formed thought substance. The animals as independent beings, here consist exclusively of this substance.

Now a further densification takes place. The condition which is now attained can be compared with that out of which the conceptions of the dreamlike image consciousness are woven. One calls this the “astral” stage.

The human ancestor again advances. In addition to the other two components, his being receives a body which consists of the substance just characterized. He now has the inner formless core of being, a thought body, and an astral body. The animals receive a similar astral body, and the plants emerge from the consciousness of the Spirits of Twilight as independent astral entities.

In the further course of the development, the densification now advances to that condition which is called physical. At first we deal with the most refined physical condition, with that of the most refined ether. From the Spirits of Form the human ancestor receives the most refined ether body as an addition to his earlier components. He consists of a formless thought core, a formed thought body, an astral body, and an ether body. The animals have a formed thought body, an astral body, and an ether body; the plants have an astral and an ether body; the minerals first emerge here as independent ether forms. At this stage of development we are concerned with four realms: a mineral, a plant, an animal, and a human realm. Along with these however, in the course of the development up to this point three other realms have come into existence. In the time when the animals separated from the Fire Spirits at the thought stage (Rupa stage), the Spirits of Personality also separated certain entities out of themselves. These consist of indefinite thought substance which gathers together, dissolves in a cloudlike manner, and thus flows along. One cannot speak of them as of independent entities, but only of an irregular, general mass. This is the first elementary realm. At the astral stage something similar separates from the Fire Spirits. It consists of shadowy images or phantoms similar to the conceptions of the dreamlike image consciousness. They form the second elementary realm. In the beginning of the physical stage, indefinite image-like entities finally separate out of the Spirits of Twilight. They too have no independence, but they can manifest forces which are similar to the passions and emotions of men and animals. These non-independent, buzzing emotions form the third elementary realm. For beings which are endowed with a dreamlike image consciousness, or with conscious image consciousness, these creations of the third elementary realm are perceptible as a flooding light, as flakes of color, as smell, taste, as various tones and sounds, but all such perceptions must be imagined to be phantom-like.

One must therefore imagine the earth, when it condenses as a refined etheric body out of its astral precursor, to be a conglomerate of an etheric mineral basic mass and of etheric plant, animal, and human beings. Filling the interstices as it were, and also permeating the other beings, are the creatures of the elementary realms.

This earth is inhabited by the higher spiritual entities, which, in the most diverse ways, are active in the realms we have mentioned. They form a spirit community, so to speak, a spirit state, and their dwelling-place and workshop is the earth, which they carry with them as a snail does its shell. In all this it must be borne in mind that what today is separated from the earth as Sun and Moon, is still entirely united with the earth. Only later do both heavenly bodies separate from the earth.

The “higher man” (spirit-man, life-spirit, spirit-self, Atma-Buddhi-Manas) has as yet no independence at this stage. He still constitutes a member of the spirit state, and for the time being is bound to the Spirits of Form, as a human hand is bound to a human organism as a dependent member.

With this we have followed the formation of the earth to the beginning of its physical condition. In what follows, we shall show how everything in this condition develops further. The previous development will then pass over into what has already been said in preceding chapters of the Akasha Chronicle about the progress of earth.

States of development such as those which have been mentioned here as a formless, a formed, an astral, and a physical condition, which thus constitute differences in a smaller cycle (a round), are called “globes” in theosophical texts. In this respect one therefore speaks of an Arupa, a Rupa, an astral and a physical globe. Some have considered such a designation incorrect. But here we shall not speak further of matters of nomenclature. Indeed, it is not names which are important, but rather the things themselves. It is better to endeavor to describe the latter as well as possible than to worry very much about names. These must after all always be incorrect in a certain sense. For to facts of the spiritual world one must give names which have come from the world of the senses, and therefore one can speak only by way of similes.

The description of the development of the world of man has been brought to the point where the earth reaches the beginning of its physical densification. One should now represent to oneself the condition of development of this world of man at this stage. What later appears as sun, moon, and earth is still united in a single body. This body possesses only refined etheric matter. It is only within this matter that the beings which later will appear as men, animals, plants, and minerals have their existence, For the further progress of the development, the one heavenly body must first separate into two, of which one becomes the later sun, while the other contains the later earth and the later moon in a still united form. Only later does a process of division also take place in this latter heavenly body; that which becomes the present-day moon is extruded, and the earth alone remains as the dwelling-place of man and of his fellow-creatures.

The student of ordinary theosophical literature should understand clearly that the separation of the one heavenly body into two took place in the period in which this literature places the development of the so-called second principal human race. The human ancestors of this race are described as forms with refined etheric bodies. But one must not imagine that they could have developed on our present earth after it had already separated itself from the sun and had expelled the moon. After this separation, such etheric bodies were no longer possible.

If one follows the development of mankind in that cycle to which our description has now come, and which leads us into the present, one becomes aware of a series of principal conditions, of which our current one is the fifth.

The preceding expositions from the Akasha Chronicle have already dealt with these conditions. Here we shall only repeat what is necessary for a further deepening of the discussion.

The first principal condition shows the human ancestors as highly refined etheric entities. The usual theosophical literature somewhat inexactly calls these entities the first principal race. This condition essentially continues during the second epoch, in which this literature places the second principal race. Until this stage of development sun, moon, and earth are still one heavenly body. Now the sun splits off as an independent body. It thereby takes those forces through which the human ancestors could be maintained in their etheric condition. With the splitting-off of the sun a densification of the human forms and also of the forms of man's fellow-creatures takes place. These creatures must now adapt themselves to their new dwelling-place, as it were.

But it is by no means only the material forces which are taken away from this dwelling-place. Spiritual entities, of whom it has been said that they formed a spirit community on the one heavenly body we have described, also leave at the same time. Their existence remains more intimately connected with the sun then with the heavenly body which the sun has thrust out from itself. If these entities had remained united with the forces which later develop on the earth and on the moon, they themselves could not have developed further to their appropriate levels. They needed a new dwelling-place for this further development. This is provided for them by the sun after it — so to speak — has cleansed itself of the earth and moon forces. At the stage at which these beings now are, they can act on earth and moon forces only from the outside, from the sun.

One can see the reason for the separation we have described. Until this time, certain entities which are higher than man have gone through their development on the one heavenly body characterized above; they now lay claim to a part of it for themselves, and leave the rest to man and his fellow-creatures.

The consequence of the splitting-off of the sun was a radical revolution in the development of man and of his fellow-creatures. They fell as it were from a higher level of existence to a lower. They had to do this, for they lost the immediate connection with those higher beings. They would have entered entirely into a blind alley in their own development if other universal events had not taken place, through which progress was stimulated anew and the development directed into quite different channels.

With the forces which at present are united in the split-off moon, and which at that time were still within the earth, further progress would have been impossible. Present-day mankind could not have been produced with these forces, but, instead, only a kind of being in which the emotions of rage, hate and so forth, developed during the third great cycle, the Moon existence, would have increased to the point of the immoderate and animal.

During a certain period, this was in fact the case. The immediate consequence of the splitting-off of the sun was the arising of the third principal condition of the ancestors of man, which in theosophical literature is designated as the third principle race, the Lemurian. Again, the designation “race” for this condition of development is not an especially fortunate one. For in a real sense, the human ancestors of that time cannot be compared with what today one designates as “race.” One must be completely clear about the fact that the evolutionary forms of the distant past as well as of the future are so entirely different from those of today that our present appellations can only serve as makeshifts, and really lose all meaning in relation to these remote epochs.

Actually, one can only begin to speak of “races” in connection with the development attained in about the second third of the third principal condition identified above (the Lemurian). Only then is formed what today one calls “races.” This “racial character” is retained in the period of the Atlantean development, and further into our time of the fifth principal condition. But already at the end of our fifth era, the word “race” will again lose all sense. In future, mankind will be divided into parts which it will be impossible to designate as “races.” In this respect, ordinary theosophical literature has caused much confusion. This has especially been done by Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism, the book which, on the other hand, has the great merit of having been the first to popularize the theosophical world-outlook in recent times. In this book the universal development is described as if, throughout the cosmic cycles, the “races” forever repeated themselves in the same way. But this is by no means the case. That which deserves to be called “race” also comes into being and perishes. One should only use the expression “race” for a certain span in the development of mankind. Before and after this, there are evolutionary forms which are something totally different from “races.”

Only because the true deciphering of the Akasha Chronicle fully authorizes one to make such a remark have we presumed to make it here. In this the decipherer knows himself to be in complete accord with true occult spiritual investigation. Otherwise it could never occur to him to make such objections against the meritorious books of theosophical literature. He might also make the really quite superfluous remark that the inspirations of the great teachers mentioned in Esoteric Buddhism are not contradicted by what has been described here, but that the misunderstanding has only been produced by the fact that the author of that book has transposed the wisdom of these inspirations, which is difficult to express, into modern every-day human language, in his own way.

The third principal condition of the development of mankind presents itself as the one in which the “races” first came into being. This event was brought about by the separation of the moon from the earth. This separation was accompanied by the originating of the two sexes. This stage of the development of mankind has been repeatedly referred to in the descriptions from the “Akasha Chronicle.” When the earth, still united with the moon, split off from the sun, a male and a female sex did not as yet exist within mankind. Each human being combined the two sexes within its still highly refined body.

It must be remembered however that these double-sexed human ancestors were on a low level of development as compared with present-day man. The lower impulses acted with immeasurable energy, and nothing of a spiritual development as yet existed. That the latter was stimulated and that thereby the lower impulses were confined within certain bounds, is connected with the fact that, at the same time at which earth and moon separated, the former came into the sphere of influence of other heavenly bodies. This extremely significant co-operation of the earth with other heavenly bodies, its meeting with foreign planets, in the time which theosophical literature calls the Lemurian, will be related in a further chapter of the “Akasha Chronicle.”

The same course of development will be described once more, but from a different point of view. This is done for a quite definite reason. One can never look at the truths about the higher worlds from too many aspects. One should realize that from any one aspect it is possible to give only the poorest sketch. And when one looks at the same thing from the most diverse aspects, the impressions one receives in this way only gradually complement each each other to form an ever more animated picture. Only such pictures, not dry, schematic concepts, can help the man who wants to penetrate into the higher worlds. The more animated and colorful the pictures, the more can one hope to approach the higher reality.

It is obvious that it is just the pictures from the higher worlds which arouse mistrust in many today. A person is quite content to be given conceptual schemes and classifications — with as many names as possible — of Devachan, of the development of the planets, and so forth; but he becomes more difficult when somebody presumes to describe the supersensible worlds as a traveller describes the landscapes of South America. Yet one should realize that it is only through fresh, animated pictures that one is given something useful, not through dead schemes and names.

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