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At the Gates of Spiritual Science

At the Gates: Lecture X: Progress of Mankind Up To Atlantean Times

LECTURE TEN

PROGRESS OF MANKIND UP TO
ATLANTEAN TIMES

When the Earth reappeared out of the darkness of Pralaya, it did not emerge alone; it was at first united with the Sun and our present Moon. Sun, Moon and Earth formed one huge body. This was the first stage of our planet.

At that time the Earth consisted of a very, very tenuous substance. There were no solid minerals, no water, only this subtle material we call ether. The whole body was thus a planet made up of fine etheric material and surrounded by an atmosphere of spirit, in the same way as our own Earth is surrounded by air. This spirit-atmosphere contained everything which today constitutes the human soul. Your souls, which today have come down into your bodies, were at that time up above in this spirit-atmosphere. The Earth was a vast globe of ether, very much bigger than our Earth today, and surrounded by spiritual substance which contained the souls of mankind. Down below, in the rarefied substance of the etheric globe, something rather denser was present — millions of shell-like forms. These were the human germs of the Saturn stage, now emerging as a recapitulation of the forms developed on Saturn in ancient times.

There was of course no possibility of physical reproduction or increase; a quite different process prevailed in those times. The whole of the spirit-atmosphere was, like our present atmosphere, a more or less homogeneous whole, except that spiritual offshoots rather like tentacles stretched down from it into the etheric globe and enveloped the shell-like forms. You must picture the spirit descending from above and enfolding each individual body. A tentacle worked on a body and built up a human form. When one form was complete, the tentacle withdrew, stretched itself in another direction and went to work on another body. The resulting forms were thus brought forth directly by the spiritual worlds. In the beginning there was a confused interwoven ether-substance, much denser than the homogeneous divine-spiritual substance which stretched forth its arms to create the forms out of chaos. This first epoch of our Earth is well described in the book of Genesis: “In the beginning God created Heaven and Earth and the Earth was without form, and void, and the spirit of God moved on the face of the waters.” The ether, as it then was, is called “water” in occult science.

You could not then have seen the Earth or the shell-like forms; they were resounding human forms, and each one, as it came into being, expressed itself through a specific note. The forms possessed no individuality, for individuality was still dissolved in the spirit-atmosphere. Seven kinds of forms could be distinguished by their ground-notes. These seven groups constituted the first human Root-race.

After millions of years a great cosmic event took place: the whole vast ether-body contracted and assumed a biscuit-like shape which it retained for a period. Finally a small part, consisting of Earth and Moon, separated off from the whole. An important stage in human evolution is bound up with this occurrence. The germinal human forms were differentiated and articulated; and because of the departure of the Sun, objects could now for the first time be illuminated from outside. All our seeing depends on the fact that the Sun's rays fall on some object and are reflected back. When the Sun withdrew, there were now bodies in existence on which it could shine, and this led to the development of an organ of sight, for light is truly the creator of the eyes. The germinal human forms, which had hitherto been maintained by the common divine atmosphere, could now see their environment. This period is described in Genesis with the words: “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.” The whole of the Earth's body now began to revolve and thus there were day and night. When we read the Bible in the light of occult science, we can again take it all literally.

A great number of the spiritual Beings who had surrounded the Earth had gone forth with the Sun. They formed the spiritual population of the Sun and exerted their influence on the Earth from the Sun. The etheric human forms were now furnished with an astral covering. The united body of Earth and Moon was surrounded by an astral atmosphere which had previously been dissolved in the spiritual atmosphere. The ether, which had earlier existed as the basic substance, had now condensed into independent etheric bodies surrounding the separate physical forms, which in their turn had become denser.

In contrast to the etheric body, however, the astral body had as yet no independent existence: there was still a common astral covering for all beings. This was the Earth-spirit, which now again stretched forth its tentacles and enveloped each single human ancestor. And now a new faculty appeared: each human form could produce another out of its own substance — a sort of reproduction without fertilisation between two beings. When the fertilisation withdrew from one form, it sank into another without a break. It was rather the same as when part of the front of a cloud detaches itself and is immediately replaced by another part from behind. It was no more than a metamorphosis; an uninterrupted continuity of consciousness prevailed. The experience was like that of a simple change of clothes. The whole planet was bathed in wonderful beauty; it floated in glorious colours in the light-ether, and gradually condensed.

Side by side with the ancestors of humanity there were already forms of plants and animals, destined to be man's companions. The plants were of the lower types which have now become dwarfed. The animals, too, had not yet acquired their present-day shapes. There were shining plants and animals that whirled through the ether. All were still of one sex, except that certain animals were beginning to develop bi-sexual rudiments. There was still no real mineral kingdom. Then the etheric forms gradually became more and more densified, with increasing absorption of the astral element.

After the passing of a further million years or so, Earth and Moon had acquired a very different appearance. Animals and plants were now like jelly or white of egg, rather like some of our jelly-fishes and sea-plants. In this more condensed form of matter were to be found the ancestors of humanity, with rudimentary organs. The forms of animals and plants were increasingly densified by the fertilising astral force. Then came an important stage when the fertilising Beings in the astral atmosphere permeated the nature-forms of that time, so that man and animals were able to draw directly from the vegetable kingdom the substances they needed for nourishment and for reproduction. The plants secreted a substance rather like present-day milk; a last survivor of these milk-secreting plants is the dandelion. So the human beings of that time were nourished and fertilised by the nature around them, and they were self-less. They were complete vegetarians, absorbing only what nature freely offered, and living on juices similar to milk and honey. It was a wonderful state of existence in those primeval days, scarcely describable in our modern language.

Then came an immensely important event: Earth and Moon separated. The smaller body of the Moon split off from the Earth. Now there were three bodies: Sun, Moon and Earth. This had far-reaching consequences for all living beings: the Moon carried off with it a great part of the forces that human beings and animals needed in order to reproduce themselves. Each individual now had only half the fertilising power he had previously possessed, and the result was a gradual emergence of two sexes. Man now had to receive the fertilising power from another being like himself. This was the Lemurian epoch, that of the third Root-race.

During this period, too, matter began to become harder and more solid. Shortly before the separation of Earth and Moon denser deposits had been formed, and after the separation cartilaginous substances, leading towards bone-formation, began to appear in the bodies of men and animals. The solidity of the bones developed, in correspondence with the solidifying of the Earth's crust. By degrees, solid mineral forms appeared. Previously, everything had been etheric, then airy, then watery; the various beings swam as though in water or flew as though in air. Now the Earth developed a solid skeleton of rocks, parallel with the development of the human skeleton. Bone-formation and rock-formation went hand in hand. The human form at that time was something like a fish-bird-animal. Most of the Earth was still watery and the temperature was still very high. This watery element contained in solution much that later on became solid — our present-day metals, for instance, and other substances. Human beings moved in it with a swimming, floating motion. They were well able to endure the tremendous heat which reigned on Earth; their bodies were still constituted of a material which corresponded to the prevailing conditions, and in this way they could live.

Small continents on which men could roam about were embedded like islands in the water; but the whole Earth was riddled with volcanic activity which constantly destroyed parts of the Earth with immense violence, so that elemental destruction and rebuilding went on continually, turn by turn.

As yet man had no lungs; he breathed through tubular gills. But he was already a very complex organism; he had deposited in himself a backbone, at first cartilaginous and then bony, and in order to propel himself as he floated and swam he had a swim-bladder, rather like that of some present-day fish.

Soon — but this means after millions of years — the Earth became more solid. The water withdrew and separated from the solid parts; the air developed its own purity, and under the influence of the air the swim-bladder changed into lungs. Man now raised himself out of the watery element — a specially important and significant event. The gills were transformed into organs of hearing. With the development of lungs, man learnt to breathe, and then all mankind lived in a common element, the air. Each human being breathed in his portion of air, shaped it to his own fire, and breathed it out again. In the beginning, therefore, man was filled with pure spirit, later with the astral element, and finally with air. As soon as he had reached the stage where the breathing of heat was transformed into the breathing of air, that which Mars had provided was turned to good account; human blood became warm. The moment had come when something spiritual which had previously surrounded man entered into him — and how? Through the air. The capacity to breathe signifies the acquisition of the individual human spirit. The Ego enters into him together with the air he breathes. If we speak of an Ego common to all men, it also has a common body, the air. Not without reason did the ancients call this universal Ego, Atma — Atmen, the breath. They knew very well that they drew it in with the breath and breathed it out again. We live in one common Ego because we live in the all-pervading air. Of course the event I have been describing must not be taken too literally. The sinking down of the individual Ego into man is spoken of in theosophical literature as the descent of Manas, or Manasaputra. With every breath, man slowly took in Manas, Buddhi and Atma, more or less germinally. Genesis describes this moment and we can take it literally: “And God breathed into Adam the breath of life, and Adam was a living soul.” This is the reception of the individual spirit.

Man now had warm blood also, and was thus able to retain warmth permanently within himself. And with this something further of great importance is bound up.

On the Old Moon there were Beings who were at a higher stage of evolution than the humanity of that time: these were the gods who in Christian tradition are called Angels and Archangels. They had once been at the human stage, but in the course of time they had ascended higher, just as we, too, will have ascended higher when we reach the next planetary stage. Although they no longer had a physical body, they were still connected with the Earth. They were no longer subject to human needs, but they needed men to rule over.

When the Old Moon had completed its evolution, some of these gods had not fully evolved with it; they had to remain as they were. They had not progressed as far as they should have done. Thus there were beings halfway between gods and men — demi-gods. They became quite especially important for the Earth and for humanity. They could not rise completely beyond the human sphere, but equally they could not incarnate in human bodies. They could establish themselves only in one part of human nature, so as to use this part for furthering their own evolution and at the same time to help mankind. On the Moon they had breathed fire, and in the fire which had become permanent in man, in the warm human blood — the original seat of passions and desires — they took up their abode, and imparted to man some of the fire which had been their element on the Moon. These are the hosts of Lucifer, the Luciferic beings: the Bible calls them the tempters of humanity. They tempted man in so far as they lived in his blood and gave him independence. Without these Luciferic beings, everything would have come to man as a gift from the gods. Man would have been wise, but not independent; enlightened, but not free. Because these beings anchored themselves in his blood, man not only became wise, but could be fired with enthusiasm for wisdom and ideals.

At the same time, however, the possibility of error arose: man was now able to turn his back on the highest and to choose between good and evil. The Lemurian race gradually evolved with this disposition, this inherent possibility of evil, and in consequence the Earth had to endure great upheavals, convulsions and earthquakes. In the end, Lemuria was destroyed through these passionate impulses of mankind.

Meanwhile, the Earth had undergone further changes and had become more solid. Other continents had arisen, and most important among them was Atlantis, between present-day Europe, Africa and America. The descendants of the Lemurian race had spread over this continent. In the course of millions of years they had greatly changed, and had acquired a form which resembled the form of man today. Yet they were very different from modern man. The shape of the head and forehead was quite different; the forehead was much lower and the digestive organs were much more powerful. The etheric body of an Atlantean extended far beyond and around his head. In the etheric body there was an important point which corresponded with a point in the physical head. In the course of Atlantean evolution the two points drew together, until the point in the etheric body sank into the physical. At the moment when these two points coincided, man could begin to say “I” to himself. The forepart of the brain could now develop as an instrument for the spirit; self-consciousness began. All this happened first among those Atlanteans who dwelt in the neighbourhood of modern Ireland.

The Atlanteans gradually evolved though seven sub-races: Rmoahals, Tlavatli, and primal Toltecs, Turanians, Semites, Akkadians and Mongols. It was among the primal Semites that the unification of the two points first occurred, and clear self-consciousness arose. The two following sub-races, the primal Akkadians and Mongols, really went beyond the goal of Atlantean humanity.

Until the two points were thus united, the soul-powers of the Atlanteans were fundamentally different from our own. The Atlanteans had a much more mobile body, and, especially in their early times, a very powerful will. They were able, for instance, to replace a lost limb; they could make plants grow, and so on. Thus they exercised a powerful influence over nature. Their sense-organs were more strongly developed: they could distinguish different metals by touch, just as we can distinguish smells. They still possessed also a high degree of clairvoyance. Their sleep at night was not like that of modern man, who mostly has only confused dreams; it was rather a dimmer sort of clairvoyance. During the night they were in touch with the gods, and what they experienced lived on in myths and legends. They pressed the powers of nature into their service; their dwellings were partly natural structures and partly hewn out of rocks. They constructed airships which were not propelled by inorganic forces, such as coal, but by the use of the organic, germinating power of plants.

As long as the two points I have mentioned were not yet united, the Atlanteans had no combinative intellect; for instance they could not count. But to make up for that they had particularly well-developed memories. A logical combinative intellect and self-consciousness emerged only with the fifth sub-race, the primal Semites.

Atlantis perished in a vast water-catastrophe; the whole continent was gradually flooded, and most of the people migrated eastward towards Europe and Asia. One of the main groups passed through Ireland and Europe to Asia; everywhere numbers of people remained behind. The Leader was a high Initiate in whom the migrants had complete faith; through his wisdom he picked out the best of them to accompany him to a distant part of Asia, where he settled them in the district now known as the Gobi Desert. There a small colony developed in complete isolation. From there colonisers went out into all inhabited lands and founded the civilisations of the next Root-race: the Indian, the Persian, the Egypto-Chaldean-Assryian, the Graeco-Latin. And then the AngloSaxon-Germanic civilisation arose.

We shall see tomorrow how this development went on.




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