The Experiences of Initiation.
The Mysteries of the Planets.
The Descent of the Primeval Word.
YESTERDAY we closed with the discussion of an extraordinarily
important event in the inner life, in the real spiritual life of man.
We attempted to bring before our souls an impression that the seeker
for initiation had at the beginning of the last third of the Atlantean
epoch. We saw how there stood before the soul of the neophyte an ideal
human form, a thought-picture, on which he had to concentrate in
meditation, and how this filled the would-be initiate's life of
thinking, feeling and willing. This thought-picture had to become ever
more the model for the man of the future.
Now we must try to conceive roughly how this thought-picture looked.
It was not entirely similar to the man of today. If we can think of a
kind of combination of man and woman in which the lower part is
omitted, a sort of double figure in which only the upper part of the
body is clearly perceptible, then we have the sensible-supersensible
picture that stood before the meditating person at that time. This
picture worked so strongly that the neophytes could make their
external bodies actually resemble it.
It is important that the meditating neophyte had within him,
facing him, a sort of human form. If he had been sufficiently
prepared to have this picture livingly before him, then he had to
realize the following clearly, As I look upon this picture I
transport myself into the earliest condition of the earth's evolution,
when earth, moon, and sun were not yet divided. At that time the earth
consisted of the primeval atom, but in this atom the clairvoyant could
see the picture that now arises before me. This picture was already
present at the beginning of the earth when as yet there were no
mineral, plant, or animal forms. At that time the earth consisted only
of the human atom, of reawakened human beings.
It is true that the first beginnings of the animals were created
during the ancient Moon condition of the earth; animals already existed then.* But we know too that
a planetary system, when it disappears, goes into a Pralaya, in which
all forms are dissolved. Thus, although the ancient Moon was already
populated with animal forms, the earth at first contained nothing
similar to animals and plants. These first appeared later. Only after
the separation of the sun did the animals gradually appear. The earth
was purely human in its first beginnings.
The neophyte looked back upon this primeval condition of the earth. He
saw in the primeval atom the ideal human form. Keeping this form
before him, he realized, Thus I transport myself into the
earliest condition of the earth. What lives in the earth, the ideal
human picture or form, tells me that the Godhead works from eternity
to eternity. It has poured itself out into these forms. It has
breathed out this original human form. Then he asked himself
what happened to the animals, plants, and other beings.
In spirit the neophyte saw the primal form of the Godhead. He saw the
animals and plants as accompanying forms, which appeared on earth only
at a later time. Everything in the lower kingdoms was regarded by the
Atlantean neophyte as having proceeded from the human form. We
understand this thought if we recollect how coal is formed. Think of
the huge primeval forests that once flourished and are now coal. The
plants have remained behind, evolving out of a higher kingdom into a
lower one. The plants have hardened into stone.
Thus the pupil of the Atlantean mysteries saw everything in the world
about him as the product of the human form. In primeval times, this
impression was conjured before the soul of man. These impressions were
retained in memory through the time of the flood. The ancient Indian
initiators again called up in the souls of their pupils this picture
of primeval man, of the man who had been breathed forth by the eternal
self. When the Indian pupil had this picture before him, he felt that
everything had sprung from it, that what appeared in this picture as
the blood had become the waters of the earth, etc. This picture
expanded until it became the foundation of the universe. Then the
following was put before his soul. It was said to him, In this
picture you have two things before your eyes. First, the picture
itself; but then, also, what lights up in you as your innermost
essence when you contemplate this picture. Without is the macrocosm;
within you is what you feel as a sort of extract, the
When the Greeks, under Alexander, pressed into India and met the last
echoes of what the pupils had felt in ancient times, they experienced
the following: When the pupil contemplates what is spread out in the
universe as man, then he has Heracles before him. The Indians gave the
name of Vach** to what lives as the
forces of the world-all. But in man, as a sort of extract of the
whole, they felt what they called Brahman. Thus the Greeks
expounded these echoes of what occurred in the soul of the pupil of
the ancient holy Indian culture. This was the fruit of the Greek's
campaign to India under Alexander the Great.
Out of precisely this fundamental feeling developed the sacred
doctrine of the ancient Indian initiates, which appears like a
spiritual image of that primeval state of the earth when it still
contained the sun-forces and high beings, for whose sublimity man
later yearned. Hence it was a great moment in his spiritual life when
the pupil was initiated and could allow to arise within him what was
grasped as Brahman. This was a mighty event in the human soul. It was
a rising into higher worlds. In no other way could a man be initiated
and achieve real vision, than by rising into higher worlds.
The world around us is the physical world. Within and around it surges
the astral world. Higher stands Devachan, the world of the gods. The
pupil must penetrate to the highest regions of Devachan if he is to
feel Brahman, the primeval self, in the macrocosm. Then he is in
highest Devachan, the world of the gods, whence springs the noblest
that is in man. It was a realm of the highest and most perfect order
into which the pupil was transported, a realm that offered much
knowledge in addition to what has been described here.
Before we go any further, we must learn to know the teachers also. All
of you have heard of the holy Rishis, who were the original founders
of the ancient holy Indian culture and had Manu for their own teacher.
Who were these seven great teachers of ancient India? As far as
possible, we must explain the nature of the holy Rishis. This requires
us to look again into the universe. We must be quite clear that what
we perceive with the physical senses is a result of what is spiritual.
If we think of the entire surrounding world as spiritualised, we can
compare it with a primeval etheric mist. This mist then gradually
became denser; it descended into the condition of matter and the
various heavenly bodies condensed out of it. Sun, Moon, and Earth
But why did the other Planets split off? For it also occurred that
Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Mercury detached themselves. Why did
this happen? We shall understand this if we realize that in the great
universe there occurs something similar to an event in our trivial
everyday life. It is not only in school that pupils sometimes fail to
be promoted, but also in the cosmos there are beings who remain behind
and cannot progress with the others. Let us be quite clear about this.
There was one group of higher beings who could not continue with the
earth's tempo. These abstracted the finest substances and formed
therefrom the sun as their dwelling-place. These were the highest
beings connected with our evolution, although they also had gone
through an evolution of their own. Thus there were beings who were in
the act of becoming sun-spirits, and others who had remained behind,
standing lower than the sun-spirits but higher than man. These could
not continue with the sun-spirits because they were not equally
mature. They could not go out with the sun, for it would have scorched
them. But on the other hand they were too noble for the earth.
Therefore they abstracted certain substances, which were between sun
and earth in fineness and corresponded to their nature, and built
themselves dwelling-places between the sun and the earth. Thus Venus
and Mercury were separated off. Here we have two groups of beings who
are not as high as the sun-spirits, but are further along than man.
They became the spirits of Venus and Mercury. These are the beings who
caused the appearance of these two planets. Mars, Jupiter and Saturn
were formed earlier for other reasons, and they also became
dwelling-places for certain beings.
Thus we, see how spirits caused the appearance of these planets. Now
one should not believe that these beings inhabiting the various bodies
of the solar system have no connection with the inhabitants of the
earth. We must see that the physical boundaries are not the real
boundaries, and that it is possible for the beings of the other
heavenly bodies to exercise magical influences upon the earth. Thus
the influences of the spirits of the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn,
Venus, and Mercury extend into the earth. The two latter stand nearer
to the earth, and after the sun had withdrawn they helped men to
prepare the earth as we have it today.
Here I would like to add one thing, because misunderstandings have
crept into the naming of the planets. In all occult nomenclature, what
the astronomers call Venus is called Mercury, and vice versa.
Astronomers know nothing of the mysteries behind this, because in the
past it was not desired that the esoteric names should be revealed.
This happened in order to conceal certain things.
All these spirits of the other planets influence the earth. From every
planet influences descend upon man. To begin with, however, these
influences had need of an intermediary. Through the great Manu this
was provided by the seven Rishis being initiated in such a way that
each understood the mysteries and influences of a single planet. Since
there were seven planets there were seven Rishis, who collectively
formed a sevenfold lodge that could transmit to the pupils the secrets
of the solar system. We find hints of this in many ancient occult
writings. When, for example, it is said that there are mysteries
beyond the seven, the reference is to those preserved by the holy Manu
himself concerning the time before the splitting-off of the planets.
The forces preserved by the planets were the subject of the mysteries
of the seven Rishis. This choir of seven Rishis, in complete harmony
with Manu, cooperated in the wonderful wisdom that was transmitted to
the pupils.. If we were to characterize this, we would have to say
that this primeval teaching contained approximately what we learn
today as the evolution of humanity through the planetary conditions of
Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan. The mysteries of
evolution were secreted in the seven members of the lodge, each of
whom typified one stage in the progress of humanity.
The pupil saw this not only saw it, but heard it when he
raised himself into Devachan, into the Devachanic world, for this is a
world of tones. There he heard the harmony of the spheres, of the
seven planets. In the astral world he saw the picture; in the
Devachanic world he heard the tone; and in the highest world he
experienced the word. When the Indian pupil raised himself into
upper Devachan he perceived through the music of the spheres and
through the word of the spheres how the primordial spirit, Brahma, is
divided through evolution into the seven-fold planetary chain. He
heard this out of the primal word Vach. This was the
designation of the primal tone of creation that the pupil heard. In it
he heard the entire world-evolution. The word, split into seven
members, the primal word of creation, worked in the soul of the pupil;
this was the primal word, which he described to the uninitiated
approximately as we today would describe our world evolution. What he
perceived is described in an elementary way in my book,
Theosophy, An Introduction to the Supersensible Knowledge.
The description we
find again in the ancient sacred tradition of the Indians, in what was
called the Veda, or the Word.
This is the true meaning of the Vedas, and what was later written down
is only a last memory of the ancient sacred doctrine of the Word. The
Word itself was only passed from mouth to mouth, for an ancient
tradition is impaired by being written down. Only in the Vedas can one
feel something of what flowed into this culture at that time. When the
pupil experienced this in his memory, he could say to himself,
What I experience in my soul as Brahman, what I have in my soul
as primal Word, this was already present on ancient Saturn; on Saturn
resounded the first breath of the Veda-word.
Evolution had now progressed through the Sun and Moon stages, as far
as the Earth. The word had become continually denser, had taken on
ever denser forms, and the picture of man in the primeval seed of the
earth was already a condensation of the condition in which the
primeval word existed on Saturn. What had happened here?
The divine Word, primeval man, had sheathed itself in ever new
coverings, and we must see what sheaths the Word assumed in the
evolution of the earth. The pupil knew that nothing in the universe
repeats itself exactly, and that each planet has its mission. What on
the ancient Sun he saw shape itself as life, what on the
ancient Moon was injected into the foundation of all things as
wisdom, was followed by the task or mission of the Earth, which
is to develop love. This was not yet present on the ancient
Moon. What was present on the latter planet in a much more spiritual
(but also in a much colder) form, the primal image of man, clothed
itself in a warm astral covering. On the Moon, what man was supposed
to become was clothed in a warm astral sheath, and it is this part
which on Earth enables the inner human life to develop love from the
lowest to the highest form.
To the Indian pupil the human form, the primal image, became clearly
perceptible in higher Devachan. In lower Devachan it then surrounded
itself with an astral sheath, which contained the forces for
developing love. Love, or Eros, was called Kama. Thus Kama acquires a
meaning for earth-evolution. The divine Word, Brahman, clothed itself
in Kama, and through Kama the primal Word resounded to the pupil. Kama
was the garment of love, the garment of the primal Word Vach,
which lies at the root of the Latin vox.
In his innermost being the pupil felt that the divine Word had taken
on an astral garment of love, and he said to himself, Man, who
today consists of four members, physical body, etheric body, astral
body, and ego, has his ego as his highest member. This ego descended
into the garment of love and formed Kama-Manas for itself. Kama, in
which Manas clothed itself, was the innermost essence of man. This was
the ego. But we know also that this innermost essence will evolve
three higher members. These transform the lower members, transform
even the physical body. As Manas grows out of the astral sheath, as
Buddhi on a higher stage corresponds to Prana, so will the physical
body, when it has been entirely spiritualised, be Atma.
All this already existed germinally in the Vach, and a verse of the
Veda recalls how the pupil brought the mystery of the innermost being
We know that the physical body first appeared on Saturn, the etheric
on the Sun, the astral on the Moon, and the ego on the Earth. The true
and original human germ, the primal Vach, however, already contained
the three following members in itself. Man may still expect three
higher members as well, and then only will he be a true image of the
Word of creation, the primal Word. It was pointed out to the pupil
that only to the initiate could the true nature of the physical,
etheric and astral bodies be made clear. Today man is himself only
when he expresses his I am, when he keeps in mind what
is entirely his own. Only then is he fully Man. The other members are
manifest, but in them he is still unconscious. In the fourth, however,
the Vach becomes manifest.
In the fourth, Man speaks. This was the verse of the
Veda. When the word of the ego resounds, the fourth part of the Vach
resounds. The verse of the Veda reads, Four parts of the Vach
are manifest; three are visible; three are now concealed; in the
fourth speaks Man.
Here we have a wonderful description of what we have so often heard.
This stood before the pupil's spiritual perception. His gaze was
directed backward to the condition in which nothing was as yet
separate, in which there was still a primeval earth, in which the full
Vach spoke. This is expressed in another verse of the Veda.
Formerly I knew not what the I am is. Only when the first-born
of the earth came upon me did the spirit become filled with light, and
I had a share in the holy Vach. In this is reproduced the
vision that the initiate had.
In all this we have a hint of the experiences of the ancient pupils of
the Rishis, of the wonderful teachings that flowed into the Indian
culture, were transmitted to the following epochs, and were
transformed in accordance with the needs of other peoples. But all of
these understood the primeval Word, Vach.
We shall understand many things better if we keep in mind one mystery
in its full scope. We must imagine that at that time the teacher's
influence on the pupil was entirely different from what it is today.
Such an influence is now possible only when the pupil has already been
brought to a certain stage of initiation. The forces exerted by the
teacher on the pupil were much stronger at that time. Not only what
the teacher could transmit by word or writing had an effect. In
reality, all this worked only on the intellectual soul, but apart from
this, mysterious magical forces worked from the teacher to the pupil,
and it was essentially the teacher's forces that were able to fill
with brightness and living force the pictures that the teacher called
up before the pupil's soul. This singular influence was lost only in
the fourth post-Atlantean period, in the Greco-Latin culture. These
forces simply change. When one of the old Egyptians confronted a young
person, it was quite different from a teacher confronting a pupil
today. Entirely different forces worked from age to youth. This will
be recognized by anyone who seeks to understand what was still
described in ancient Greece. Socrates actually had telepathic powers,
which he allowed to work on his pupils while he instructed them. Such
things can no longer work in our time, but they are hinted at in
Plato's writings. What was entirely justified then would be rejected
as a misdemeanor today. Changes take place, and today no one has a
right to copy such methods. Certain phenomena today may remind us of
this, but they must be considered reprehensible.
In ancient times, forces proceeded from the teacher to the pupil. Even
in ancient Egypt there were still a great many people who could absorb
forces in this manner. If a person who was especially sensitive stood
before someone who had learned to strengthen his thoughts, a strong
thought worked in such a way that it appeared as a picture in the soul
of the sensitive person. In ancient Egypt such a telepathic influence
was eminently possible, and thought-transference was present to a high
degree. If a strong will-nature confronted someone who had not been
strengthened, this was often the case. In Egypt one was able to guide
and direct in a high degree through thoughts, in a way we today cannot
imagine at all. Today such forces would be woefully misused. In
ancient Egypt, however, initiation rested principally upon forces of
this kind. This was likewise true in ancient India and Persia.
These forces also reinforced the method which, if an exoteric
expression is desired, might be called medical. By this we do not mean
the official medical practice of today. The Egyptian physician and
initiate would have laughed to scorn what modern man calls medicine.
The Egyptian physician knew one thing that the conditions that
prevailed in ancient Atlantis, and that could still be perceived in
initiation, could in a certain sense be reawakened. The consciousness
in which man lived in Atlantis was a dim clairvoyant consciousness. At
that time (said the Egyptian initiate) the spiritual beings could
exert a much greater influence on man. Today, when he sleeps, man
knows nothing of the higher worlds, but the Atlantean, in his shadowy
clairvoyant consciousness, then lived with the gods. If modern man can
raise himself to an ideal, this is better for him than all moral
teachings; similarly, the Egyptian initiate worked on his pupil
through pictures of higher spiritual events. This had no mere external
effect; it worked deeply within, and in such a way that a definite
Let us think of a sick person, who is sick because certain bodily
functions do not proceed in a normal way. What is the cause of this? A
person with occult training knows that when the physical body
functions irregularly, the cause does not lie outside the latter. On
the contrary, all illnesses that do not come from outside the Physical
body, originate in the fact that the etheric body is not in order. But
the etheric body is ill because the astral body is out of order. If an
Atlantean was threatened with a disorder in the distribution of
fluids, this was quickly taken care of. In a sleeping condition he
received from the spiritual worlds such force that through his sleep
the disturbed functions were restored to order, and he was brought
back to health. He rebuilt the healing forces through sleep.
The ancient Egyptian physicians did something similar. They reduced
the patient's consciousness to a sort of hypnotic sleep, during which
they could govern the soul-pictures that arose around the patient.
They guided these pictures in such a way that they were able to work
back on the physical body and make it healthy. This was the
significance of the temple-sleep that was applied for internal
ailments. The patient was given no medicine, but was allowed to sleep
in the temple. His consciousness was damped down, and he was allowed
to look into the spiritual worlds. Then his astral experiences were
guided in such a way that they had the power to pour health into the
body. This is no superstition; it is a secret that was known to the
initiates. They introduced the spiritual into the patient's
experiences. In this medical art, which we find so closely connected
with the principle of initiation, the Atlantean conditions were
artificially recreated during the healing. Since man did not work
against himself through his day-consciousness, those forces could be
active that were necessary for healing. This is how the temple-sleep
In the Egyptian culture there still reigned that principle which, in
India, reigned among those wise Rishis who guided affairs, who
transmitted the planetary forces, who were the pupils of Manu, the
great teacher of that first sublime culture. In the first
post-Atlantean culture it was the Rishis who brought the sublime
teaching that led men into lofty spiritual worlds, even into the world
of higher Devachan. In the succeeding cultural periods, what was seen
there was led down as far as the physical plane. Until the fourth
post-Atlantean period there continued to descend into the physical
plane that Being whom we learned to know as Brahman in the Indian
period and whom we now designate as Christ. No longer does he transmit
the spiritual; he himself became man in order to radiate over all men
the mysterious power of the primal Word.
Thus the primal Word descended, in order that it might lead man upward
again. Man must understand how that happened, if he is to make himself
an instrument through which he can work into the future. We must learn
to know what happened before our time, so that we ourselves can
cooperate in an ever higher molding of what exists around us and for
We must create a spiritual world in the future. To do this, we must
first understand the cosmos.
* Note 1: Throughout this and the following lectures much is said of the development of human and animal forms. For an attempt to systematize Dr. Steiner's views in this field and to bring them into connection with ordinary scientific knowledge, the reader is again referred to Poppelbaum, Man and Animal (Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1960).
** Note 2: The Sanscrit word is Vach or Vac; see Maurice Bloomfield's Religion of India (New York, Putnam, 1908), pages 191 and 243. Dr. Steiner uses WHA in German, but the first letter should be pronounced like the English V, hence the WHA becomes VHA in English.
Note 3: Selections from the Vedas are given in Sacred Books of the East (Oxford University Press, 1879-1910) but there seems to be no complete translation or index in English.
Note 4: Kama is a Sanscrit word meaning desire, the nature of the astral body.