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Souls of the Nations

Souls of Nations: Sixth Lecture


Referring again to the last lecture, Dr. Steiner points out how very deep and intricate the truths of cosmic evolution are, so that we cannot rest content with isolated aspects; we must put together what is contained in the different lecture-cycles to obtain a fuller picture. Here he himself refers to the Spiritual Hierarchies lectures of the year before. The first Hierarchy — Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim — had there been spoken of as working inward from the Universe towards the centre of the Earth, whilst here their forces are described as raying outward from the Earth. Both aspects are true, says Dr. Steiner. Primarily, these Beings work inward from the Universe, but their activity is then reflected, so that it works outward again from the depths, from the Earth's centre. It is the latter aspect we become aware of most directly when considering, as in this lecture-cycle, the mission of the Earth.

In the opening verse of our ‘Foundation Stone’ the first Hierarchy (‘Spirits of Strength,’ that is the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones) are thus addressed: “May there ring forth from the Heights the call that is re-echoed in the Depths.” Such then is their activity.

Now in this lecture the creation of human races by the abnormal and normal Spirits of Form — touched on already in lecture four — is gone into in greater detail. First, Dr. Steiner reminds us of how the normal Spirits of Form, the Elohim of the Old Testament, by virtue of whom all humanity are one, are in their number seven. Six of them work from the Sun; in the Sun's light we have the outward garb of their activity. The seventh, Jahveh or Jehovah, took up His abode on the present Moon; He it was who by His power severed the Moon out of the body of the Earth, as described in Occult Science. It was indeed, says Dr. Steiner, to counteract the potent forces of the backward Spirits of Movement that Jahveh had to detach Himself from His six colleagues and go with the Moon instead of with the Sun.

Now by co-operation — or by polarity and antithesis — between the normal Spirits of Form, including Jahveh, and the abnormal (Spirits of Movement working as Spirits of Form), the different races of mankind are brought about. Moreover, even as the normal Elohim and Jahveh work from Sun and Moon, so do the abnormal Spirits work from the five planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Their forces ray down from these planets to the Earth; thence reflected, in their reflection from the Earth-centre they bring about the five fundamental races of mankind. It was already indicated in the last lecture (pp. 71, 72) that the forces of these abnormal Spirits have been transplanted, so that they work upon us from beneath, from within the Earth — no longer directly from the surrounding cosmic sphere as is the case with the normal Being of this Hierarchy.

Five special centres are there on the Earth's surface, where these reflected planetary forces severally become concentrated, modifying the formative powers of the normal Spirits of Form. They are the centres, three or four of which were mentioned in connection with the diagram in the fourth lecture.

In the interior of Africa is the point where the abnormal Spirits belonging to the planet Mercury concentrate their forces. The outcome of them is the Negro or Ethiopian race. Eastward, in Asia, is the formative centre for the Venus-forces, the Malayan race — the type we find in Southern Asia and the Malayan archipelago. Northward from thence — more in the great expanse of Asia — the Mongolian race is formed by the Mars forces. In Europe then, we come to the Jupiter humanity, the Caucasian race. Finally, in America, dark Saturn's race: the Red Indians.

The forming of the races in these regions of the Earth mainly took place, however, during a certain period of time — in Atlantis. It was the time when the planetary Oracles were flourishing as described in Occult Science — and in connection with them all, the Christ- or Sun-Oracle. The several Oracles, Dr. Steiner now tells us, seeking the right moment and constellation between the planet in question and the Sun and Moon, guided the peoples to and from the centres where these cosmic forces worked. Thus were the races of mankind formed out of spiritual wisdom. It was indeed, on a grand scale, a piece of practical astrology and spiritual geography at the same time. We shall remember, this was the time when the souls of men, the great majority of whom could not have suffered the conditions on the Earth between the severance of Sun and Moon, came down again on to the Earth from the several planets where they had lived during this interval.

It is made evident that this, perhaps the greatest colonizing deed in the whole history of mankind, was guided after all from one great centre in Atlantis, where the true Spirits of Form — those who prevailed in the Christ Oracle — were the inspirers. Thus were the workings of the abnormal planetary Spirits wisely guided, brought under control.

To understand the forming of the races we have however not only the macrocosmic and terrestrial, planetary and geographical, but above all the human microcosmic aspect to consider. Therefore the different members or organic systems in the human body are now named, wherein these planetary, race-creating forces found expression. The planetary forces work neither in the physical body pure and simple, nor in the higher vehicles, but in the reflection or impress of these latter in the physical. We recall this from the elementary ‘human science’ of Anthroposophy: —

the Ego finds its impress in the blood,
the astral body in the nervous system,
the etheric body in the glandular system.

This would give only three possibilities, but inasmuch as each of these can work in either of two ways, which will now be described, the number is doubled; six racial types are accounted for. We have in fact, in enumerating five races, omitted one important type — the Semitic.

Briefly to sum up what Dr. Steiner indicates: — we begin with the Ego and its expression in the blood. Here work the forces of the planet Mars — in one or other of two ways. Where the abnormal Spirits of Movement belonging to Mars work in a kind of agreement with the normal Sun and Moon beings and under the control especially of Jahveh, the Semitic race — the chosen of Jehovah — is the outcome. Where on the other hand they work in polarity or opposition to the Sun- and Moon-forces, the yellow or Mongolian race is produced, whose relation to the Mars forces was already mentioned.

Mars therefore, unlike the four remaining planets, accounts for two distinct racial types. Dr. Steiner refers to the Mongolian and Semitic races as one of the deepest and most important polarities in the whole structure of mankind.

We may here call to mind that Mars of all the planets has an unique relation to the Earth in its past history. Long, long ago in more ethereal conditions, the Earth passed through the planet Mars and became thoroughly impregnated with the Martian metal iron, the metal which we also find in our own blood. How much this iron means for the Ego working in the blood will be remembered, for example, from Dr. Steiner's Michaelmas lecture in the Seasons and Archangels course (October 1923), ending with the meditation upon this metal.

That the Elohim, and among them Jahveh the Moon spirit, should be so much concerned with the Mars-beings, is intelligible. For the Mars-sphere itself is in a way a cosmic relic of old Moon evolution, even as Jupiter is of the old Sun and Saturn of old Saturn.

We come now to those races which are especially due to the planetary forces working in the nervous system, physical impress of the astral body. The planets here concerned are two: Venus and Jupiter.

The nervous system, says Dr. Steiner, can be worked upon in either of two ways: via the breathing or the senses. The former way will rather work into the sympathetic system (solar plexus), the latter more into the ‘higher’ nervous centres — into the brain. In the former way the Venus forces work, producing the Malayan racial type; in the latter, the Jupiter forces, producing the Caucasian race — the European type of humanity.

In later years Dr. Steiner often spoke of how the life of the senses — all the senses, not only the eye — is a kind of refined breathing; a breathing in the light, or Light-ether. This is of course deeply, organically connected with our more palpable breathing — our breathing in and out of the air-element. The latter, coarser kind of breathing works down into the formation of the body as a whole; the finer breathing on the other hand — the breathing-in-the-light — works up into the cognitive life of the senses and of thought, into the head-nature.

Two types of spiritual or occult development are connected with this. The one is the Eastern, Yoga method in which rhythmic breathing exercises play so great a part. The other is the more Western, Rosicrucian method which relies largely on an awakened interest in the surrounding world: the spiritualization of the life of the senses. Long afterwards, in his important Michael-lectures of autumn 1919, Dr. Steiner actually referred to this latter method as a kind of ‘Yoga in the Light.’ All that he says in this connection will greatly help us understand the entire method of Anthroposophy, not only in meditation proper, but in the forming of daily life and in all manner of æsthetic and scientific, cultural pursuits along which we are guided in this modern way of knowledge.

Once more then we are initiated into an important secret of practical Occultism, which will have its part to play in the intelligent guidance of mankind in the future as in the past. “These two centres,” says Dr. Steiner, referring evidently once again to the geographical centres, “were always there in human evolution: the one presided over, as it were, more by the Spirits of Venus, the other by those of Jupiter.” And of the Western or Jupiter-centre, namely the one from which the Caucasian race took its origin, he tells us: it was here that the great spiritual conference took place, a few centuries after Christ, between the three Initiates, Zarathustra, Buddha and Skythianos, under the leadership of a still greater one, which led to the founding of the Rose-Cross Mysteries, the esoteric guidance of European humanity for a long time to come. This is a reference to what he had already spoken of in an earlier lecture-cycle, in Munich the previous summer — the founding of the Rose-Cross Mysteries under the inspiration of Mani. [The East in the Light of the West, concluding lecture. See also The Mysteries of the Rose-Cross by the present author, in Anthroposophy Quarterly, Vol. III (1928), No. 1.]

Mention is also made of the ancient Greeks, originators of our European culture. For a deep reason they made Zeus or Jupiter their God. They also were a people who sought to beautify and idealize the outer life of the senses.

Another most illuminating point is this. Inasmuch as there are many senses — twelve, as we now know — the Caucasian or Jupiter race is pre-disposed to find expression in a great variety of peoples, according as the cosmic forces, working in one or other of the senses, become predominant We are thus led to understand why in the history of Europe manifold independent nations play so great a part. ‘Nation,’ once more, is something altogether different from ‘race.’ Indeed, in another lecture Dr. Steiner indicates that the development of nations — by intermingling as well as differentiation of races — is among the factors by means of which in course of time the racial principle itself is overcome.

Two of the five planets still remain — Mercury and Saturn. Both of these, though in profoundly different ways, work in the glandular system, in which the ether-body finds expression. The glandular system is connected on the one hand with all that is liquid and pliable — above all, with the growth-forces of the body; therefore it is in some ways predominant in childhood. This is the aspect with which the planet Mercury has to do. Yet on the other hand the potent forming forces — by the very vigour with which they work — will in the course of time as it were outdo themselves and bring about a general hardening of the body. This is the Saturn aspect, wherein all things are brought to a certain finish and thereby to the point of death. Dr. Steiner says that in this type of humanity “the Saturn influence works via all the other systems into the glandular system. This then secretes the hardest parts of man.” There comes about that boniness of feature with which we are familiar in the far Western race.

The secret of Saturn — planet of death in popular tradition — is not so easily fathomed. In Occult Physiology, lectures given in Prague a year later, Dr. Steiner goes into it more fully. Saturn, in spite of Uranus and Neptune still in a certain sense the outermost planetary sphere in the essential organism of our Solar System — Saturn with its orbit in a way encloses and completes this system, draws as it were a ring around it and makes it self-contained. Now what is closed within itself is to that extent cut off from the greater Universe and ipso facto doomed to ultimate extinction. Saturn makes whole, yet thereby sows the seed of death. A like function is fulfilled by the Saturn forces in the microcosm of the human body. The different systems — the planetary forces in this microcosm — are by Saturn rounded off and fitted into one another so completely that the body is cut off from universal life; hardens, and dies. (Needless to say we also owe to this forces of consciousness and of self-finding.) This then is Saturn's work and finds its ultimate expression via all the other systems in the glands; for in the glands with their mysterious chemistry we have a physical expression of the most potent forming forces of the Universe.

So then it comes about that the most childlike and the most aged racial types — the Negro and Red Indian — are both of them, though in such different ways, the result of planetary forces working into the glandular system.

The lecture ends with a dialogue which Rudolf Steiner was fond of quoting, between a Red Indian chieftain and a European colonist. He indicates that in their worship of ‘the great Spirit’ the Red Indians treasured a memory of a time in Atlantis almost before the separation of races, when — though he might not see the outer Sun, Atlantis being bathed in mist — man was clairvoyantly aware of the great harmony of normal Spirits, the seven Spirits of Form in their unison.

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