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Secrets of the Bible Story of Creation

Schmidt Number: S-2261

On-line since: 15th May, 2008


Hebrew - English Bible


N a good many places in this course of lectures — as well as elsewhere in our Anthroposophical discussions — it may well sound as if I rather enjoyed having to set myself up in opposition, or apparent opposition, to “modern science.” I am thinking more of people in the outside world unacquainted with the kind of feeling that prevails in our circles, but it is a point on which I am particularly anxious to avoid any misunderstanding. You may take it as definite that it is a very real effort for me to do anything of the sort; and that I only do it precisely at those points where I myself am able to develop or carry further what science has to say. My sense of responsibility is such that it will not permit me to bring forward anything that conflicts with the opinions of modern science, unless I have first placed myself in a position to understand, and if necessary reproduce, its findings on the subject in hand. No one having such an attitude could possibly approach the all-important matters which are to occupy us in the next few days without the deepest sense of awe and of the responsibility that goes with it.

Unfortunately, it just has to be said that, as regards the questions now to come before us, modern science breaks down altogether. The scientists are not even in a position to know why this should be so, or to perceive why their science must necessarily prove so hopelessly amateurish in face of the real and the great problems of existence. So, although in a short course of lectures it is naturally not possible to engage in controversy about every detail, please take it for granted that behind all I say I am fully aware of the modern scientific outlook on these subjects. Only, as far as possible, I must confine myself to what is positive, and trust that in a circle of Anthroposophists this will always be understood.

In the last lecture I tried to show how those tremendous, archetypal words with which the Bible opens — words which are put before us in a language different in its very nature from modern tongues — can only be rightly interpreted if we try to forget the attitude of mind and feeling we have acquired as a result of the usual modern renderings. For the language in which these powerful words of creation were originally given to us has actually the peculiarity that the very character of its sounds directs the heart and mind towards those pictures which arise before the eye of the seer when he contemplates the moment of the welling-forth of the sense-perceptible part of our world out of the super-sensible. Every single sound in which the immemorial origin of our earth existence is placed before us is full of active power. In the course of these lectures we shall often have to refer to the character of this language; today, however, let us confine ourselves to one of the first essentials.

You know that in the Bible, after the words which yesterday I at least tried to put before your souls in picture form, there comes a description of one of the complexes which arose out of the divine meditation, out of the divine productive musing. I told you that we have to conceive that, as if out of a cosmic memory, two complexes arose. One was a complex which may be compared with the thoughts which can arise in us; the other is of the nature of desire or will. The one complex contains all that tends towards outer manifestation, tends to proclaim itself, tends, as it were, to force its way out — haschamayim. The other complex — ha'arets — consists of an inner activity, a permeation with inward craving; it is something which inwardly vivifies, animates. Then we are told of certain qualities of this inner, vivifying, self-stimulating element, and these are indicated in the Bible by appropriate sounds. We are told that this self-stimulating element was in a state which is designated as tohu wabohu [ 1 ] — without form and void. To understand what is meant by tohu wabohu we must try to recapture a picture of what it expresses; and we only succeed in doing that if out of our spiritual scientific knowledge we call to mind what it was that, after its passage through the Saturn, Sun and Moon evolutions, emerged again and surged through space as our planetary earth existence.

I pointed out yesterday that what we call solidity, the state which offers a certain resistance to our senses, did not exist during the Saturn, Sun and Moon evolutions; only the elements of fire or warmth, gas or air, and water were to be found there. It was only with the emergence of the earth that the solid element was added. Thus at the moment when there happened what we were describing yesterday, when the tendency began for the sun to split off from the earth, there is a mutual interpenetration of the elements warmth, air and water — they surged through one another. That preliminary surging interpenetration which we have tried to picture to ourselves is the meaning of the phrase inadequately translated as without form and void, but eloquently and effectively rendered by the succession of sounds tohu wabohu. What then does tohu wabohu signify?

If we try to picture what can be aroused in our souls by these sounds it is something like this. The sound which resembles our own T calls up a picture of forces diverging from a central point in every direction. Thus the moment one utters the T sound one gets the picture of forces diverging from a centre in every direction to illimitable distances. So that we have to imagine the elements warmth, air and water permeating, interpenetrating each other, and within them a tendency to diverge, as from a centre in all directions. The sound tohu alone would suffice to express this tendency to push outwards, to separate. What then does the second part of the phrase signify? It expresses the very opposite of what I have just described. The character of the sound resembling our B, called forth by the letter Bet, expresses what you would get if you imagined an enormous sphere, a hollow sphere, with yourself inside it, and rays proceeding from every point inside this sphere towards its centre. Thus you imagine a point within space whence forces stream out in all directions — that is tohu; these forces are arrested at the extremities of the spherical enclosure, and turned back again on themselves from every direction of space — that is bohu. And if you have formed this idea, and think of all these streams of force as filled with the three elementary substances of warmth, air and water, then you know the character of this inner animation. The combination of these sounds indicates the way in which elementary existence is guided by the Elohim.

How far has this brought us? We shall not understand the sublime process of the seven days of creation unless we bear these details in mind. If we do so, then the whole will seem a wonderful cosmic drama. Let us recall once more that in the word bara — “in the beginning the Gods created” — we are concerned with a soul-spiritual activity. I have likened it to the thoughts which are called up in our own souls. Thus we may think of the Elohim as arrayed in space, and bara as a cosmic soul-activity, a pondering. What the Elohim ponder is expressed by haschamayim and ha'arets — the outward radiation and the inner, mobile energy.

To make the comparison as close as possible picture yourselves in the moment of awakening; groups of ideas arise in your souls. This is how haschamayim and ha'arets arise in the souls of the Elohim. Now you know that these Elohim came over to earth evolution at the stage to which they had evolved during the Saturn, Sun and Moon evolutions. So that they are in a somewhat similar situation to your own when on awakening you call up thoughts in your souls. You can contemplate those thoughts, you can say what they are. You can say: “When I awake in the morning and recall what has previously been left in my mind, I can describe it.” It was something the same with the Elohim, when they said to themselves: “Let us now reflect upon what arises in our souls when we recall what took place during the ancient Saturn, Sun and Moon evolutions. Let us see how it looks in recollection.” What it looked like is expressed in the phrase tohu wabohu; it could be expressed by a picture such as I have given you, as streams radiating from a centre outwards into space and back again, in such a way that the elements are interwoven in this streaming of forces. Thus the Elohim could say to themselves: “At the stage to which you have so far brought things this is what they look like. This is how they are resumed.”

Now in order to understand what comes next, usually rendered “darkness was above the fluid substances” or “above the waters”(above the abyss) — or darkness was upon the face of the waters (English A.V.) — we must take into consideration something else. We must once more turn our attention to the course of evolution before the earth came into existence.

First we have the Saturn existence, inweaving in the fiery element. Then comes the Sun existence, with its addition of the airy element. But in my Occult Science you can read how with the addition of the air something else is associated. The fine warmth element of Saturn condenses to a gaseous element. But every such densification is accompanied by a counter-process of refinement. Condensation to the gaseous element is a descending process, but on the other side there is an ascent to the light element. Thus, speaking of the transition from Saturn to Sun, we must say that Saturn still weaves solely in the element of warmth, whereas during the Sun evolution something denser, the gaseous element, is added, but so also is light. The light element makes it possible for the warmth and the air to manifest themselves in outward radiance.

Now let us take one of the two complexes — the one expressed as ha'arets, usually translated as “earth” — and ask ourselves how the Elohim, turning their attention to this complex after their act of recollection, would have described it. They could not have said that what had already existed in the Sun evolution had now come to life again. For it was without light; light had separated from it. Ha'arets had thus become one-sided. It had not brought with it the light, but only the coarser elements, the gaseous and the warmth elements. True, there was no lack of light in what is expressed by haschamayim, but haschamayim is the sunlike, issuing from the other complex. In ha'arets there was no rarefaction, there was no light. We may then say that in one of the complexes warmth, air and water surged through one another in the way which is indicated by tohu wabohu. These elements were denuded, they lacked the light which had entered into evolution on the Sun. They remained dark, had nothing sunlike about them; for that had withdrawn with haschamayim. Thus the progress of earth evolution means that the light, which it still had so long as the sun remained united with it, had now withdrawn; and a dark fabric woven of the elements of warmth, air and water was left.

We now have the content of the meditation of the Elohim before our souls in more detail. But we shall never be able to think of it in the right way unless we are conscious all the time that air, water and even warmth are external expressions of spiritual Beings. It would not be quite correct to call this elemental existence their “garment”; it should rather be regarded as making known their presence externally. Thus what we call air, water, warmth, are maya, illusion; they are only there for the outward aspect, and this is so even for the mind's eye. In reality this elemental existence is something psycho-spiritual, it is the external manifestation of the soul-spiritual of the Elohim. But we must not think of the Elohim as at all like man, for man is actually their goal. To fashion man, to call man, with his own peculiar organisation, into existence, that is the very matter of their cogitation. So we must not think of them as human, but we must certainly envisage that there is already in their nature a certain cleavage. When we speak of man today, we do not understand him at all unless we distinguish between body, soul and spirit. You know what great efforts we Anthroposophists have made to get a closer understanding of the activity and nature of this human trinity. To recognise this unity in trinity first becomes necessary in the case of man; and it would be a great mistake to think of Beings who existed before man, the Beings whom the Bible calls Elohim, as if they resembled man. Nevertheless in their case too we can rightly distinguish between a kind of body and a kind of spirit.

Now when you distinguish between body and spirit in man, you are well aware that even his outer form bears testimony to the fact that his being lives in it in a variety of ways. For instance, we do not try to locate man's mind in his hand or his legs, but we say that his bodily functions are in his trunk and his limbs, and that the organ of his mind is the head, the brain; the brain is the instrument of mind. Thus we distinguish in the external human form certain parts as the expression of the physical, and certain other parts as the expression of the spiritual.

We have to look upon the Elohim in somewhat the same way. All this surging elementary web of which I have spoken can only be correctly understood if it is looked upon as the bodily vehicle of the Elohim's psycho-spiritual. These elements of air, warmth and water are the external embodiment of the Elohim. But we have to make a further distinction; we have to look upon the watery and gaseous elements as more connected with the bodily, denser functions of the Elohim, and what permeates this tohu wabohu as warmth as being the element in which their spiritual part is at work. Just as in the case of man we say that the more bodily part functions in the trunk and the limbs, and the more spiritual part in the head, so if we look upon the entire cosmos as an embodiment of the Elohim, we can say that their more specifically bodily part lived in the air and the water, and their spiritual part moved in the warmth

Now the Bible makes use of a remarkable phrase to express the relationship of this spiritual part of the Elohim to the elements: Ruach Elohim m'rachephet [ 2 ] — a phrase which we must go into more closely if we would understand how the spirit of the Elohim permeated the other elements. We can only understand the verb racheph by praying in aid, so to speak, all the associations which it would have carried with it in those days. If one simply says “And the spirit of the Gods moved upon the outspread substances — upon the waters” one has said almost nothing. We can only understand the word if we think of a hen sitting upon her eggs, and of her brooding warmth radiating out over the eggs beneath her. (I know it is a crude illustration, but it does help to bring out the meaning.) And if you think of the energy of this brooding warmth which streams from the hen into the eggs in order to bring the eggs to maturity, then you can have a notion of the meaning of the verb used here to convey what the spirit does in the element of warmth. It would of course be quite inaccurate to say that the spirit of the Elohim broods, because what the physical activity of brooding conveys today is not what is meant. What is meant to be conveyed is the activity of the outraying warmth. As warmth radiates from the hen, so the spirit of the Elohim radiates by means of the warmth element into the other elementary states. When you think of this, you have a picture of what is meant by the words: And the spirit of God (the Elohim) moved upon the face of the waters.

Now, up to a point, we have reconstructed the picture which hovered before the soul of the ancient Hebrew sage when he thought about this primeval condition. We have constructed a complex of spherically interwoven warmth, air, water, such as I have described the tohu wabohu to be, from which all the light had withdrawn with the haschamayim, and this interweaving of the three elementary states was inwardly permeated with darkness. In the one element, the warmth, there weaves or surges the spirituality of the Elohim, which itself expands with the expanding warmth, and brings to maturity what is at first immature in the darker elements.

Thus when we come to the sentence And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, we are dwelling on one characteristic of what in the first verse of the Bible is called ha'arets — earth. We are expressing what is left after haschamayim has been withdrawn.

Now let us recall once more the earlier conditions. From the earth we can look back to the Moon, Sun and Saturn conditions. Let us go back to the Sun. We know that at that time there was no separation of what we today call earth from the sun. Therefore the earthly part was not illumined by light from without. That its light comes from without is the essential characteristic of life on earth. At that time, however, you have to think of the earth-sphere as enclosed within the Sun, forming part of the Sun, not receiving light, but itself forming part of the Being that is radiating light into space. This condition can be summed up by saying simply that in it the earth element does not receive light, but is itself a source of light.

Mark the difference! In the Sun evolution the earth itself participated in the radiation of light. In the earth evolution that is no longer the case. The earth has surrendered the radiant element, it has to receive light from without; light has to stream into it. That is the essential difference between the earth, as it has become in the course of evolution, and the Sun condition; with the separation of the sun, of the haschamayim, the light went out too. All that is now outside the earth. The elementary existence which surges in ha'arets as tohu wabohu has no light of its own. The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, but that did not make the earth light; it left it in darkness.

Let us take another look at this elementary existence as a whole. You know of course from earlier lectures that we are accustomed to enumerate what we call the elementary states within our earth existence, beginning with the solid, then coming to the watery, next to the gaseous or aeriform and then to the warmth. These four constitute the denser conditions of matter. But we have not yet finished. If we go further upwards we meet with finer conditions, of which we do not get a much better idea by calling them finer substances. The main thing is to recognise them as finer relatively to the denser ones, the gaseous, the warmth and so on. They are usually called etheric states, and we have always distinguished light as the first of these finer states. Thus, when we descend from warmth into the denser, we come to the gaseous condition; if we ascend, we come to light. Ascending still further, beyond the light we come to a yet finer etheric condition, we come to something which is not really recognisable in the ordinary sense-world. We only get a kind of external reflection of it. From the occult point of view one can say that the forces in this finer ether are those which govern the chemical affinities of matter, the chemical combinations, the organisation of substances such as we can observe if, for instance, we place a fine powder on a metal plate, and then draw the bow of a violin across the plate, getting as a result the “Chladni” sound-figures. What the coarse physical tone brings about in the powder also occurs throughout space. Space is differentiated, is permeated, by forces which are more rarefied than the forces of light, by forces which represent in the spiritual what tone is in the sense-world. So that when we ascend from warmth to light, and from light to this finer element, we can speak of a chemical of sound-ether, which has the power to decompose and to combine substances, but is in reality of the nature of sound, sound of which the sense-perceptible tone which the ear hears is only the outward expression, the expression made by its passage through air. That brings us somewhat nearer to this finer element which is above light. Thus when we say that what has the quality of manifesting itself externally withdrew from the ha'arets with the haschamayim we must not think only of the light, but also of the finer etheric element of sound which permeates light.

Just as we go downward from warmth to air, and thence to water, so we can go upward from warmth to light, and from light to what is of the nature of sound, of chemical combination. And from water we can descend lower to earth. When we mount from the sound-ether we come to a still higher etheric condition, which also withdrew with the haschamayim. We come to the finest etheric state of all, which weaves within the chemical or sound-ether we have just been describing. If you turn your spiritual ear in this direction, you do not of course hear a noise in the external air, but you hear the tone which vibrates through space, the tone which permeates space and organises matter just as the tone produced by the bow of a violin organises the Chladni sound-figures. But into this condition brought about by the sound-ether is poured a still higher etheric mode. And this higher ether permeates the sound-ether just as the meaning of our thought permeates the sound which our mouth utters, thereby transforming tone into word. Try to comprehend what it is that transforms tone into a word full of meaning; then you will have some idea of this finer etheric element permeating the organising sound-ether and giving meaning to it — the Word which vibrates through space. And this Word, which thrills through space and pours itself out into the sound-ether, is at the same time the source of life, it is really vibrant, weaving life! Thus what has withdrawn out of the ha'arets with the haschamayim, what has gone into the sun, as distinct from the other, the lower, the earth part — as distinct from the tohu wabohu — announces itself externally as light. But behind the light is spiritual tone, and behind that is cosmic speech. Thus we may say that in the brooding warmth lives the lower spiritual part of the Elohim, somewhat as our own desire lives in the lower part of our soul. The higher spirituality of the Elohim, which went out with the haschamayim, lives in the light, in the spiritual sound, in the spiritual word, the cosmic Word. These can only stream into the tohu wabohu again from without.

Let us now try to bring before us in a picture what hovered before the soul of the Hebrew sage as ha'arets, as haschamayim. When what withdrew as spiritual light, as sound, as the uttering and formative Word-element, streams back again, how does it act? It works from the sun as articulate light, as light giving utterance to cosmic speech. Let us think of what we have called tohu wabohu in its darkness, in its surging interweaving of warmth, air and water; let us think of it in its light-forsaken darkness. And then let us think that out of the activity of the Elohim, through the creative Word, which as the highest etheric entity lies behind their activity, there rays in with the light all that streams out from the Word. How is one to describe what is taking place? One cannot more fittingly express it than by saying that the Beings who had withdrawn their highest into the etheric with haschamayim radiated answering light out of cosmic space into the tohu wabohu. There you have the substance of the memorable verse: And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. There you have the picture which hovered before the Hebrew sage.

So we must think of the Beings of the Elohim as spread over the whole cosmos, we must think of this whole cosmos as their body, and the elementary existence in the tohu wabohu as the lowest form of this body; of the warmth as a somewhat higher form; and we must think of the haschamayim, the part which has withdrawn, as the highest spirituality, which now works creatively into the whole structure of the tohu wabohu.

Now you see what I am leading up to — that it was the cosmic Word expressing radiant light which organised the surging of the elementary part, the tohu wabohu, and made it what it later became. Whence comes the power which organises the human form? There can be no human form such as we have, standing upright on two legs, making use of hands, unless it be organised by forces emanating from the brain. Our own form is organised by the highest spiritual forces streaming out from our own spiritual part. The lower is always organised by the higher. In the same way the ha'arets, the body of the Elohim, their lower part, was organised by their higher bodily part, the haschamayim, and by the spiritual essence of the Elohim working within it. Thus the highest spirituality of the Elohim takes possession of what has been cast out, and organises it, and we can express this by saying that the light manifesting itself through the cosmic Word streams into the darkness. That is how the tohu wabohu was organised, raised out of the disorder of the elements. Thus, if you think of the haschamayim as the head of the Elohim, and the elementary part which is left behind as the trunk and limbs, organised through the power of the head, then you have the actual process. Then you have man expanded to cover the whole cosmos. And out of the spiritual organs in haschamayim he organises himself. When we think of all the streams of energy which pour out from the haschamayim to the ha'arets we may venture to picture it as a macrocosmic man organising himself.

Now in order to paint the picture more accurately, let us turn our attention to man as he is today. Let us ask ourselves how man has become what he is — I mean, what he is to the spiritual scientist, not to ordinary science. What is it that has given him the special structure which distinguishes him from all the rest of the living creatures around him? What is it which weaves throughout this human form? If one does not blind oneself it is very easy to say what makes him man; it is something he possesses which none of the beings around him has — speech, which expresses itself in its own proper sounds. That is what makes him man. Think of the form of the animal and ask yourselves how it could be raised to the level of the human form. What would have to permeate it for it to become human? Let us put the question in this way. Let us think of an animal form, and imagine that we have to make a breath enter into it — what would this breath have to contain, in order to make this form begin to speak? It would have to feel itself inwardly organised in such a way that it uttered the sounds of speech. It is the sounds of speech which make the animal structure human!

How then can one picture the cosmos? Out of all that I have put before your souls, all that I have built up gradually out of this elementary existence, picture by picture, how can one come to feel the cosmos inwardly, how can one come inwardly to feel the structure of macrocosmic man? By beginning to feel how the sounds of speech flash into form.

When the sound of A soughs through the air, learn to feel not merely its tone, learn to feel the form it makes, just as the tone of the violin bow, passed over the edge of a plate, makes a form in the powder. Learn to feel the A and the B in their transience through space; learn to experience them not merely as sound, but as form-making; then you will feel as the Hebrew sage felt when the sounds of speech stimulated in him the pictures which I have put before your mind's eye. That was the effect of the sounds of speech. That is why I had to say that Bet (B) aroused the idea of something enclosing, like a shell shutting something off and enclosing an inner content. Resch (R) stimulated a feeling such as one has when one feels one's head: and Schin (S) suggested what I might describe as a pricking or penetrating. That is a thoroughly objective language, a language which, if the soul is receptive, crystallises into pictures as the sounds are uttered. In the sounds themselves lies the lofty discipline which led the sage to the pictures which crowd upon the soul of the seer when he enters into the super-sensible world. Sound is in this way transmuted into spiritual form, and conjures before the soul pictures which form a connected whole in the way I have described. What is so remarkable about this ancient record is that it has been preserved in a language the sounds of which create form, the sounds of which crystallise in the soul into form. And these forms are the very pictures which one gets when one penetrates to the super-sensible out of which our material physical has evolved. When one comes to understand this, one feels a deep awe and reverence for the way in which the world has evolved; and one comes to realise that truly it is by no mere chance that this great document of human existence has been transmitted in this script — a script which by means of its very characters is capable of arousing pictures in the soul, and of guiding us to what in our own time the seer is to discover anew. That is the feeling which the Anthroposophist ought to cultivate when he approaches this ancient document.


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