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Rudolf Steiner Archive Section Name Rudolf Steiner Archive

Universe, Earth and Man

Animal forms  the physiognomical expression of human passions. The religion of Egypt  a remembrance of Lemurian times. Fish and serpent symbols. The remembrance of Atlantis in Europe. The Light of Christ.


Animal forms — the physiognomical expression of human passions. The religion of Egypt — a remembrance of Lemurian times. Fish and serpent symbols. The remembrance of Atlantis in Europe. The Light of Christ.

In the last lecture it was shown how a differentiation had arisen in evolution generally, and particularly in human evolution, because human beings, and other beings also, could not await the right point in their evolution; they therefore fell behind and became hardened to a certain degree, while others retained the necessary softness and pliability until the right moment, and were thus able to carry out the changes that were fitting. It was also shown that it was only in the middle of the Atlantean epoch that the true human form appeared. In the previous epoch, and indeed at a very early period, the external form of man was very mobile; not only could he move his limbs as at present, but through inner powers he could elongate or shorten them, etc. To the ordinary consciousness of today it seems a kind of outrage to say such things about past conditions of the earth and of man. Even here among Anthroposophists you may have observed that we endeavour to develop certain truths step by step; we give them forth gradually, in small doses — they are then more easily digested.

Let us turn our attention once more to this early development. Even the Atlantean epoch had a beginning, and it came to an end through mighty water catastrophes of a very complicated kind. The Atlantean epoch lasted for a long, a very long, time. When we go back still further we come to other catastrophes in the course of evolution, these may be called volcanic in nature, when large tracts of land lying south of Asia, east of Africa, and north of Australia were demolished. On these tracts of land humanity had dwelt, and, to borrow a term from natural science, the land was called the Lemurian continent.

At that time humanity had a body much softer and more plastic than it is now; it was a period when man could assume many shapes; if we were to describe them they would seem very grotesque to the consciousness of the present day. We arrive here at a point of time before which no kind of feeling of personality, no feeling of selfhood, had as yet come to man. As he had no consciousness of self, and as the human shape was still very mobile and unfinished, something else happened. The shape which man presented outwardly — and which changed according to his emotions, being one thing at one time and something quite different at another — was in this way a kind of betrayer of his inner being; according as his thoughts and passions were good or bad his external shape assumed a different form. It was impossible at that time to entertain an evil thought and keep it hidden, for the external bodily form immediately expressed it, therefore man appeared in all kinds of shapes.

There were at this time very few of the higher kinds of animals; the earth was peopled by the lower animals and man. And if one were companionable — and such indeed we all were fundamentally — one could find one's fellowman through the expression they gave to this or that thought, or to this or that passion. What really are all such expressions? What are the physiognomical expressions of passions and thoughts? They are the shapes of animals. When we observe the form of animals we see in the higher orders of the animal kingdom nothing but thoughts and passions of all sorts worked into a great piece of tapestry. Everything that moves within the human astral body today, and remains hidden, was such a strong force at that time that it imparted at once to the soft body (which was really only formed out of fire-mist) the shape which was the expression of that passion. A large part of our present higher animals consists of human beings who were so entangled in their passions that they became hardened in these forms and fell behind in evolution. Anyone who looks with really occult perception on his environment can express his feeling approximately as follows: In the course of becoming an ego I have passed through that which I now see in lions and snakes; I lived in all these forms, for in my inner being I experienced the qualities which are expressed in these animal shapes.

Those human beings who were capable of rising, who maintained their inner centre, found a certain balance, so that they have within them only the possibility of these passions, which are, however, of a soul nature only, and